Two years ago in May, the Ibrox board attempted to bring down Scottish football’s second top governing body, that of the SPFL. The whole game could have been plunged into anarchy as a result of it.
But much worse followed two months later.
In July of 2020, Scottish football was still struggling with exactly how to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak. We didn’t know it then, but the entire season would have to be played behind closed doors, with games available only on pay-per-view.
It was a calamitous season for Celtic, as we all know full well. But there was more going on that year than just Celtic’s collapse. Ibrox was starting to settle scores.
Reckless behaviour became the order of the day. It had started with that dodgy dossier and their effort to decapitate the league board. But it would not end there. They were testing every boundary.
The most egregious of them was when they ignored test protocols prior to a bounce game against Dundee Utd. As many as nine of their players took to the field without having had the SFA’s medically signed-off virus all-clear.
An explanation was demanded. Who knows what Ibrox told them?
It was a friendly, nobody cared, there were never going to be any severe sanctions for it … that was clearly the rationale inside both Hampden and Ibrox.
But we’ve been living with the consequences of that decision since, because following on from the attempted coup it was the moment Ibrox ceased to co-operate, the moment they ceased to even pretend to care about the greater good of the game.
There cannot be a much more serious set of regulations imposed on clubs in the recent history of our game.
Ibrox’s excuse for their failure to comply with them was that the rules were unclear and they simply misunderstood them; the contempt for all of us that we should believe that is astounding. All they were doing was testing the guardrails … when they saw how weak was the leadership they escalated. They have been doing it ever since.
Before they end of that campaign, they had violated lockdown rules with their Ibrox title party. Their fans had been given George Square to party in and they rioted.
Even as all this was going on, they were laying the groundwork for their campaign charging the media for access, and preparing to withdraw from the SPFL’s commercial contracts.
They’ve since made another attempt to bring down the SPFL board, and the end result of it has been that the SPFL has cravenly surrendered to them and the BBC has bowed to kiss the ring.
Ibrox is at its bullish and most arrogant worst right now … and all of it could have been avoided had the governing bodies acted robustly in May, June and July two years ago.
But they didn’t. The media had its chance when the club first charged them money for access to the club’s manager and players. Instead of standing firm, as a unit, some of them bent over and wrote their cheques, and now that’s a permanent feature of dealing with Ibrox … and it will certainly inspire other clubs and organisations to follow suit.
Allowing them to weaken the framework for commercial deals is probably the most dangerous thing the SPFL has done in years, at least since it was founded in the aftermath of the liquidation of Rangers.
The consequences of that will reverberate for years.
Even today, when their fans have again turned Glasgow streets into battlefields there is an odd reluctance amongst our press to name and shame the club for their behaviour.
Everyone continues to treat this lot with undue reverence, as if they haven’t learned that Ibrox sees all this and it only encourages the next set of outrages.
And they are coming, as sure as night follows day. The SPFL better brace itself for them, because an emboldened Ibrox is dangerous, and they think they can do whatever they like.