Rangers face spell in bottom tier after SPL rejection

Third Division place on the cards – but that could threaten Scots' new £80m TV deal

What was decided yesterday at Hampden Park?

The Scottish Premier League voted "overwhelmingly" against allowing the newco Rangers to replace the old Rangers in the top flight for next season. Ten of the 12 clubs voted against the newco while Kilmarnock abstained. Charles Green, the Rangers chairman, voted for the application, but they needed an 8-4 majority.

So if they are not allowed into the SPL, where will Rangers go?

The only way is down. The newco Rangers will have to start in the Scottish Football League instead. There are two options: they will either enter the Scottish First Division, or they could go down into the Third Division, the fourth tier of the Scottish game. "We will now proceed as we had planned from late June to apply for membership of the SFL," said Green. "If our application were to be accepted, Rangers will play in whichever division the SFL sees fit and we will move forward from there." The 30 Scottish Football League clubs will vote next Thursday to decide which division they are in.

As a newco, would it not be right to start at the bottom?

Many say that as a new entity it makes the most sense. There is a groundswell of opinion for the newco Rangers to start again from the bottom. It was fan pressure which drove the SPL clubs to reject the application yesterday. Even 75 per cent of Rangers' season-ticket holders (below) in a recent poll said that they wanted to play in the Third Division. Eleven of the 30 SFL clubs have already expressed their preference for a Third Division entry.

So what is the case for First Division?

Money. A new television deal with Sky and ESPN begins this season, worth £80m. Scottish football's top administrators have been arguing against Rangers' demotion to the Third Division because of the damage it could do to this deal. The SPL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, warned that while one year without Rangers in the top flight might be manageable, three years would not. "Ultimately that would wreak huge financial damage on the whole game," Doncaster said, "and it's difficult to see why 41 innocent clubs should pay the price for the misdeeds of one". David Longmuir, chief executive of the SFL, agrees. He has warned the SFL clubs that if Rangers were not in the First Division then £16m of TV money might be lost, and that the SPL clubs may decide to create an SPL2 with newco Rangers in it.

Will this convince the SFL to take Rangers in the First Division?

We may have to wait until next Thursday but the SFL clubs are unimpressed with these threats from the top. "We are being bullied, railroaded and lied to," said the Raith Rovers chairman, Turnbull Hutton. "We are being lied to by the Scottish FA and the SPL. We are being threatened – it is not football as I know it. What kind of game are we running here? It is corrupt."

 

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