Five years ago today, Rangers entered administration. It was the event the media said could never happen, the one the club’s supporters believed would never come. Not only was it not a surprise to the Internet Bampots, it was something we’ve been awaiting, predicted, for months if not years. From the day Craig Whyte bought the club for £1 – the purchase price alone should have offered a hint of the dismal financial state at Ibrox – it was a matter of time.
Whenever someone asked me during the months that followed what I thought the chances that administration would lead to liquidation were, I had a different answer. What started out to be 70/30 in favour of their survival dropped like a stone with every day that Duff and Phelps carried on with their ridiculous tenure. By the end of the first month – bear in mind, many in the media told us this would last weeks, if that – I was putting their odds at 40/60 against.
When I heard they were depending on HMRC accepting a CVA I put their chances at just 10%. There was always the possibility that the tax man would cave to background political pressure. When it became obvious there was no appetite for that I knew they were done.
The events of 2012 still haunt Scottish football today.
They didn’t have to, but they do.
They haunt the game here because no lessons were learned from them. The SFA and the SPFL, in endorsing the Survival Lie, have made such events more, not less, likely to come to pass. The failure to put in place more robust regulations is astounding and unforgivable. If Sevco were to fall into the Long Dark as their predecessor did it would be like a nuclear detonation; it would level the game here. The fact we can’t dismiss this out of hand is unbelievable, but it lingers there, a dark possibility we cannot afford to dismiss.
This is Scottish football in 2017, run by people who have failed to take on board the lessons of the greatest crisis to shake our sport in decades, and as incredible as that is it’s even more so when you consider how little those inside Ibrox have learned.
When Sevco was formed, we were told this would be the model of a smoothly run club.
We were told that there was a Grand Plan, a long term strategy that would deliver big. We were told the club would focus on youth, bringing through a cadre of talented players who would be together for years, all the while putting aside the profits accrued from 60,000 attendances every week and low running costs. Within months we knew it would end in tears; McCoist went out and signed up a team on big wages, to navigate the lower ranks of the Scottish game.
A share issue raised millions.
They were blown.
Five years on, the club teeters on the brink all over again, the fans bracing themselves for a series of court cases which could push them over the side. The plans McCoist made were upended in just three years. Warburton got half that time. The next manager will be under the most intense pressure imaginable from Day 1 in the job; there will be no time to bed in, no time to put down foundations. He will have to start winning from the first, and if he comes up short he, too, could be gone quickly.
Overspending is what this club was born with, which is hardly surprising since it’s what killed Rangers stone dead and birthed the lie that the two are one in the same. When you assume somebody’s identity you take the risks inherent in that act. If that person has trouble then that trouble becomes yours. If that person has a horrible wife, grasping kids and a family one step down from a trailer park then you are stuck with them, as part of the entry fee.
Sevco was born with Rangers’ rapacious need to spend money and as that’s what killed the former Ibrox club it’s a pretty good bet that this one will go the same way. Why didn’t they learn that? It was, after all, not only the most obvious lesson to take from the downfall of that club but the most important too. Five years on, the same mistakes are being repeated.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the desire to be bankrolled by another sugar-daddy, in spite of the insanity of that being laid bare for all to see. Other clubs have suffered for it. Aside from Rangers itself, there are three notable examples of what happens when the guy writing the cheques is no longer around; Hearts, Gretna and Blackburn.
Two of those clubs sailed very close to the wind.
Gretna, like Rangers, went to the wall.
The perilous nature of that course of action is obvious to anyone who’s looking at it but this club’s fans never seem to get past the notion.
When Rangers was looking for a buyer in the aftermath of all this there was nobody out there.
The two prospective purchasers, Miller and Ng, took one look at the books and decided not to bother. Robert Sarver was linked with a move in January 2015, but it was knocked back by their board. He took his £20 million to RCD Mallorca the following year instead.
There are no more Sarver’s out there. King’s board has been a disaster, all short term manoeuvres and smoke and mirrors. They will probably take a stab at getting a fresh share issue sometime in the next six months, but that’s strictly the last throw of the dice and there isn’t a soul at the club who isn’t wholly aware of that. It would be used to bring in the new management team and hand them a transfer kit, without fixing any of the underlying issues which make the club such a lousy investment for anyone who cared to try.
The club will have to sort itself out eventually, running on a sustainable basis, but this doesn’t appeal to King or to many of their fans. He is unable to fund the ambitions he’s set for the club, but it doesn’t stop him constantly bragging about them.
Sevco is a club that needs to know its place; first it has to realise that debts killed Rangers, that they are not some continuation of that club and that trying to be is what’s squeezing the life out of them. Second, it has to realise that life in the shadow of Celtic is their future, until they have spent years developing their own club. The idea of trying to compete with us, when we’re so far in front of them on and off the park, is suicidaly stupid.
Everything changed in 2012. Even if you accept the Survival Lie, Rangers was a club that had lived beyond its means for nearly 20 years. Five years ago the slate was wiped. The club was forced to confront the fiscal realities the rest of the clubs had been living with.
Liquidation saw every top player depart, and every commercial arrangement reset.
The club that was born was what Rangers would have been without the steroids, without the bank, without Murray’s ego. When David Holmes took over running the club and started spending money they were fourth in the league; fourth.
Think on that for a moment.
When he sold it to Murray a couple of years later he had used his and Lawrence Marlborough’s money to outspend every other club in the country and signed English internationals, taking advantage of their club’s being banned from Europe. The club never ventured down the road of sanity again, nor even looked in its direction.
Some of us lived through the years of Murray’s spending, and the taunting of their fans. They accuse us of dancing on the grave of their club; they are correct. When we were in trouble in the early 90’s they were lining up, getting ready to dance on ours.
But Fergus didn’t simply save us, he did it right. He rebuilt. The founding stones of his revolution were prudence and planning. He knew exactly what he was doing, and I like to think he looked across town and knew how it would end.
It ended on 14 February 2012.