For the last few weeks, the focus of our media and our support has been almost totally on Celtic.
The blogs have written about very little else, even those, like this one, who keep an eye on events in the wider game.
Yet a lot has happened outside of our club as we’ve been indulging in self-flagellation and naval gazing in recognition of the risks to our quest for the ten.
That quest is in a perilous place and nobody should pretend otherwise. We have a way to go before we can say we’re back on form or playing as well as we should. Even then, questions will remain about whether we can go to Ibrox in December and win.
We cannot count on the club across the city imploding. We cannot count on there being some kind of meltdown over there.
This is one of the problems with our board right now; they did count on it, they counted on that club collapsing in instalments.
The bloggers never have.
We have written about their perilous state, but we never took it for granted that this would be the year the walls came tumbling down.
But it bears repeating that this is not out of the question.
We’re still in the midst of a global health emergency and the pressures on all businesses are enormous, but especially football clubs and especially in Scotland.
It could have happened this year.
Indeed, it probably should have.
But on the face of it, they found another couple of mugs willing to buy shares with the value of toilet paper, they skipped a few tax quarters, cut a deal with HMRC and the lights have stayed on.
But this is akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul and in another league it wouldn’t even be allowed.
It has no future.
The only way that club can continue to live this high on the hog is if they somehow find even bigger mugs out there willing to buy their footballers for vastly more than they are worth and get Champions League football at the same time.
Otherwise, that club is circling the drain.
I will keep on writing this over and over again, not because I enjoy the way the words look on the page but because it is true.
Those who have doubts, ask yourselves this; without those “directors loans” and without their “equity confetti” where would they be?
They’d be in the same graveyard as Rangers, that’s where.
Or would they?
That’s what this article wants to explore.
They’ve secured another £1 million from an equity switcheroo, diluting even further the value of their shares, and furthermore they have taken advantage of a scheme designed to help businesses dealing with Covid to delay the publication of last year’s accounts by six months.
Stop wondering where they are; nobody’s going to see them until June.
Think on how godawful those accounts are that they don’t want anyone seeing them until this season is wrapped up, and all the key issues settled.
Think on what must be in there that they want those numbers – from last year, remember – to be hidden until next year.
It is astounding that Scottish football has no rules to forbid this sleight of hand.
UEFA itself has relaxed FFP requirements, so they won’t have any problem with this either.
The issue here is not that this violates any rules, it’s that they are taking advantage of the global pandemic to hide things from public gaze.
Bear in mind that last year’s accounts don’t in any way affect this campaign.
They don’t affect the state the club finds itself in.
What they do is conceal how serious the trouble might be behind the scenes.
Can you even imagine how catastrophic what’s in there must be that they’ve taken a deferment?
Of course, one of the things Phil, myself and others expect to be in those accounts is in relation to Ashley and the hold he still maintains on the club.
Phil mentions the looming legal actions they still face in this arena as well as those which are being brought by Hummel for the Ibrox club’s breach of their contract with them.
Those will be waiting for them when this crisis starts to ease.
They haven’t gone away.
They, like the accounts, are merely deferred.
Of course, Ibrox’s great gamble is that they will ride this campaign out somehow and emerge on the other side of it as champions, and they are betting big that this is their golden ticket to the Champions League chocolate factory, where they can recoup some of the losses.
If they can flog Morelos or some other pretender for a big fee that will do nicely.
It’s a risk, but it could work.
If not, that’s when Celtic must be at their most alert.
Because there’s clearly more in those accounts that just another year of losses and a little bit of Mike Ashley.
When you consider that they could publish them before a weekend and hope the narrative moves on by the Monday, you wonder why they just don’t?
So whatever’s in there .. it’s bad, alright.
Say we win this league; what do you think the consequences will be at Ibrox?
If they are hiding accounts and falling behind on their tax payments – and they are doing both of these things – then you would think that things over there are pretty severe, and that’s based on what we know.
The real issue might be the things we don’t know … what Donald Rumsfeld once called the “known unknowns.”
And there might, of course, be what he called “unknown unknowns” as well … the things so out there that we haven’t even thought about them yet.
So say next summer is like this one, except that Celtic is in the full flush of ten in a row, and at Ibrox they are trying to decide whether to stick or twist on Gerrard.
Say they can’t sell a top earner for the big money they need, and there’s no money to spend because all those options were exhausted for this campaign.
What do you think will happen over there?
What do you think will happen if this crazy poker hand for all the chips they have in front of them – and everything they could borrow from the banker and the shady men leaning against the walls at the backs of the players – ends up not quite good enough to beat what we’re holding?
Well folks, that’s when the pity party starts, when the chorus of “Brother can you spare a dime?” goes up from Ibrox and all of Scottish football is once again plunged into crisis.
And that crisis will come just as we’re starting to cycle out of the present one.
What happens if the SFA and the media starts arguing that Scottish football can’t afford to let another Ibrox club go under?
When they point to the emergency we just left and say “this is the wrong time for the game here to be dropped into greater uncertainty.”
What happens then?
What happens if they can’t produce those accounts?
If there’s something sufficiently grim in them that it furthers complicates matters and makes them impossible to sell or to attract investment?
What happens if they try to conceal the size of the hole from all but the governing bodies and those they need on side just to keep on the lights?
What happens if they fail on every level to get a UEFA license because they owe money to all and sundry and their very survival depends on them getting European income?
What happens if we’re back to a similar place we were in 2012; not quite liquidation, but somewhere at least where the dominos are all lined up so that if one goes they all go and the Second Death doesn’t seem far-fetched, but something tangible and real?
Who do you trust to make sure the rules are followed?
Those rules, by the way, which presently exist, and which incidentally have done nothing to prevent this mess?
I can’t tell you what the SFA and the SPL will do, but I know the pressure on them from sponsors, TV companies and even some of the other clubs will be momentous.
I can tell you right now that if the SFA wants to bend a few regulations to help out “for the greater good” they’ll have a lot of support for it, and the more serious the trouble they’re in at Ibrox the greater all those pressures will be.
Administration, the league could probably handle …
But depending on how bad those accounts might be. if I were in the Ibrox boardroom I wouldn’t stop there, as significant debts would be leftover to settle even if all the creditors got was pennies in the pound in a CVA.
I’d be thinking about what Whyte initially was; a pre-pack phoenix job.
And as things stand, they’d get away with it, as this is where all those seeds we’ve scattered over the past couple of years start to bear their poisoned fruit.
Because if you believe in the Survival Lie, as the SFA does, the precedent is that clubs can shed their debts by shedding their identity, but that doesn’t have to cost them their history.
The Survival and Victim Lies twin up here, at this ghastly juncture point.
There is not, and there has never been, any provision for a club in financial distress starting at the bottom … only liquidated clubs do that, and the dominant narrative in the media and in the game itself is that Rangers, the club, weren’t liquidated at all although they went through the formal process and even had to apply for an SFA membership.
That’s what makes the Victim Lie so dangerous, when combined with the Survival Lie.
Let me put it in simpler language;
If the Ibrox board goes down the phoenix route, the door is wide open for them to pull it off.
Because if the SFA accepts Rangers 3 as the same club as Rangers 1 – and they would, because they accept Rangers 2 as the same club – then there won’t be any question of them having to start again, and no rule to compel them to.
The SFA’s stance will be that all three Ibrox entities are exactly the same club … and those inside Ibrox will fight to the last drop of blood to avoid “another relegation.”
So yeah, that’s how I’d do it in their shoes; I’d ditch their debts, take the 15-point slap on the wrist and not even have to leave the SPL.
If their players agree to TUPE over they even keep the squad.
There was another club – outside of Ibrox I mean – who tried to do this kind of thing, who bet everything on Champions League cash and failed.
They were Leeds United, who’s miscalculation resulted in about as severe and lasting a fall as any club ever has whilst surviving the plummet.
Rangers should be the great cautionary tale of British football; instead what happened to them has been ruthlessly spun as a dark fairytale in the eyes of the media, their fans and a lot of folk outside of Scotland who don’t know any better.
To those people, they are the club Scottish football tried to kill out of hate and envy and bigotry, the club which survived a grotesque injustice and which, due to the devotion of their fanatical support, clawed its way from the bottom tier to the top again.
A lovely tale to warm the hearts of every football fan.
And total bullshit, of course.
We know different.
We know that bears not the slightest resemblance to what actually happened, but that will be the song the media up here sings if the Second Death looms.
It’s Leeds, not Rangers, who are the cautionary tale of British football.
This is their first year back in the EPL since the collapse and they still look threadbare, a shadow of what they were.
The Ibrox gamble looks like theirs in some ways … but in fact, it might not be a gamble at all unless our club and others stand ready to act in the event they try this stunt.
This is what I mean when I write that our board has failed in its most awesome responsibility.
Not only could the current Ibrox club turn the same trick again, but this time they might come out of it still holding their SPL membership.
It sounds impossible, right?
But in fact, if you accept the Survival and Victim lies then it’s all laid out for them.
We have let this situation develop until we’re starting catastrophe in the face.
For how can Rangers be a cautionary tale when nobody learned from it?
When it didn’t change how the game here works?
When there were no actual punishments handed down and the media and half of the country pretends that the current club at Ibrox is the same one?
How can Rangers be a cautionary tale if the current Ibrox club are behaving the same way, knowing full well that they might not even suffer the fate that club did, that they might be able to run up debts, dump the lot and get off completely scott-free?
This, again, echoes what Phil said about moral hazard yesterday.
When you don’t put in place things to keep people from acting like this, you’re only waiting to clean up the mess.
Everyone else was expected to pay the price last time so that nobody at Ibrox would have to pay the bill.
Back then, the fans of all the clubs rose up and stopped it.
But with a game fatigued from a season long lock-down, with most fans just happy to be back inside stadiums, with clubs desperate for cash and, in the SPL, more dependent on the bigot pound than they ever have been before … who’s going to stop it this time?
Celtic? Don’t bet on it.
If we were going to stop this … it would never have got this far.