by Kieran Mather
Bury fans and Glasgow Rangers fans both awoke on Wednesday morning to see the astonishing news that Charles Green’s consortium had planned a takeover of the English League 1 club and take over their fixtures with immediately effect.
Theoretically, a takeover could take place and Bury could be renamed Glasgow Rangers and relocated to Ibrox. This would mean that the Capital One cup 1st round on 11th August could see Middlesborough travelling north of the border to Scotland rather than across the Pennines to Greater Manchester.
We’re all aware of the woes facing Rangers Football Club since 14th February this year with the club entering administration, suffering point deductions, a transfer embargo imposed, and serious talk of demotion to the Scottish Third. So to an extent we understand where Charles Green is coming from. The SPL are to vote on Rangers’ SPL status on July 4th and despite being urged to “vote with your head not your heart” by Charles Green this is a club that operated in such an inappropriate financial manner they owed other club’s transfer funds and player wages whilst they were receiving lucrative funds from TV revenue for their involvement in the Old Firm derby and the later stages of the cup competitions. The vote will more likely than not go in Rangers favour with the logic that the club would surely claim back to back promotions and could be a bigger and better force for it in 4 or 5 years time.
So if the mooted relocation had occurred and Rangers moved lock, stock and barrel to Greater Manchester what would have happened? Well their primary motivation would have obviously been to gain promotion to the English Premier League as quickly as they could to the Scottish Premier League resulting in a slice of the richest league in football’s vast coffers. They could have even done this by playing “the richest game in football” and make a Wembley appearance. The expense of hotels and travel for away games would have been more than justified when the club is competing with the likes of Manchester United, City and Chelsea and then Mr Green could simply plonk the ‘for sale’ sign on Ibrox and hopefully retire never to be seen in football again. (Incidentally, as a Sheffield United fan his name is mud)
Such ideas aren’t new. It’s never been a secret that the two Old Firm clubs want to be in the English Premier League for competitive and financial reasons, a move that would most likely condemn the SPL to a slow and painful death when the inevitable withdrawal of the TV deal with Sky occurred. The move has always had similarities to when 5 clubs just over 20 years ago held a series of secret meetings with TV bosses to create a breakaway league which has now become the English Premier League.
Thankfully or not depending on your view the proposition has never gathered support for the reason that if the SPL’s golden goose game was lost to the English Sky would withdraw its funding of the league.
The fact Rangers are Scottish isn’t necessarily an obstacle for competing in England. Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham all do this by invitation.
There may be complications that the FA inadvertently created during the formation of the Premier League which is that the players are responsible to the FA before their club affiliations, meaning that any current Rangers player is bound by the Scottish FA so may have to officially “transfer” to then become an official English FA registered player.
Bury football club deny these plans and state strongly that they would not be agreeable to the proposal. But the story won’t go away and with the weakening of Glasgow’s duopoly the way is now clear for a SPL side such as Motherwell or Hearts to make their move and challenge Celtic at the top and, who knows, attain a Champion’s League spot. Should this happen and Rangers return as strong as ever there could conceivably be three or more powerful voices calling for a English/Scottish Premier League merge in years to come. Remember it only took five teams to change the face of the English league.
For now though the far-fetched Rangers/Bury idea will presumably come to nothing, so rest assured all League 1 fans you will get to travel to Gigg Lane rather than Ibrox next term. Good eh? But Wednesday’s story should concern all those involved. Talks of merging Scottish Football Leagues with the SPL are already on the horizon and with revenue, attendances and profits down the sport is in trouble. Personally, having seen a Scottish third division encounter last year between Queens Park and Berwick Rangers – a 1-1 draw watched by just over 500 people – these clubs won’t last too much longer unless something drastic is done. We’ve seen this week to what extent of drastic a Scottish club is willing to cede to in order to survive.