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Rangers On the Edge

These are indeed historic days for Alba, for just as Scotland’s Claim of Right may about to be asserted at the ballot box in 2014 a bastion of North Britain is terminally ill.

Once hailed as one of the great institutions of Scotland Rangers FC is now at death’s door.

Yesterday’s events in the Court of Session in part spring from the fact that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) believe that the Ibrox club operated an illegal tax strategy for the first decade of the millennium.

That case has just gone through the First Tier Tax Tribunal and the three judges have yet to deliver their judgement.

The underpayment alleged by HMRC is £24million added to this is £12million in interest accrued.

HMRC are also seeking £18million in penalties which will be dealt with by a subsequent Tax Tribunal.

If Rangers lose this case then HMRC they can appeal to the Upper Tribunal, but HMRC could push for immediate payment of the £36 Million (£24 Million  + £12million) a sum that the Ibrox club, by the admission of the previous Chairman Alistair Johnston, just could not pay a total bill of £52 million.

The current owner of the club has also been assailed by controversy from all sides. The news that he mortgaged four years of season ticket money to raise £24.4million shocked the club’s supporters.

Craig Whyte’s reputation was recently shredded in court when he appeared on a matter of an unpaid bill of £90,000 to a roofing company where his veracity and his connection to reality was questioned by the Sheriff.

The Ibrox club, one of the twin pillars of the Scottish game, could be about to exit the scene.

This is almost too big to contemplate for the many in the Scottish press pack.

Not everyone would mourn the passing of Rangers.

Apart from the old firm rivalry based on imported Irish rivalries over a century ago the cultural significance of Rangers FC as the Independence referendum approaches cannot be easily dismissed.

While the green half of Glasgow’s fitba feud celebrates their Hibernian heritage, and that often means an Irish Republican heritage, the denizens of Ibrox proclaim their Britishness.

Complete with the Dambusters March blaring over the PA and squaddies being marched across the turf this is Kipling on the Clyde. The glory that was Pax Britannica is still fondly remembered in Govan on match days, this is “last night of the proms “with goalposts.

However underneath this Battle of Britain nostalgia there are hatreds with a Bosnian edge.

The club’s support is defined a finely honed Anti-Irish racism.

The denizens of the boardroom and the dug out in my lifetime have sought to, at the very least, tolerate this.

Although the unwritten ban on catholic players in the first team was dropped in 1989 there is yet a player in the Rangers first team from a specific country.

In my 53 years on the planet there has not been a single player from the Republic of Ireland in the Rangers first team.

Yet in the past twenty years there has been a RoI full or U21 international in every other of the 190 top tier professional football clubs in Britain.

All the SPL clubs and all of the English clubs down to division two.

There is indeed no team like the Glasgow Rangers.

Where does this imperial nostalgia sit with a Scotland that has an SNP government pushing for independence post 2014?

Even discounting the HMRC case there were worries that the club had serious cash flow issues due to a lack of working capital.

In the world capital of daft football rumours no one seriously doubted that the eleventh hour sale of star player Nikica Jelavić was simply to provide cash to keep the lights on and meet another monthly payroll bill.

Once in Administration, if an agreement cannot be made with the creditors who are owed 75% of the total monies, then liquidation could result.

In the psychology of grieving, Rangers fans up until very recently, have refused to believe this scenario.

That largely changed within the Daily Record ran with a story that revealed that the owner Craig Whyte had securitised the next four years of season ticket money to raise £24.4 million from the company Ticketus.

For most Rangers supporters the denial phase was over with that article.

Although the details of the tax case had been made public in May 2010 the fact that the lights were still on and Rangers were dominant on the field assisted a sense of “crisis? What crisis?” among the club’s followers.

Now with Celtic leading the SPL pack since the turn of the year some Rangers fans had finally started to ask questions about their club’s future.

However their questioning of the people in charge of the club has been too little and too late to mobilize to save their club.

Now as Scotland might be about to take its place in the community of free nations again then it might be no bad thing if this unsporting bastion of North Britain were to quietly slip beneath the waves.

Scottish independence and the demise of Rangers might just be a coming together of fortuitous circumstances for a new beginning of the country of my birth.

Comments (40)

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  1. i have no sympathy at all, the fans and media were made aware of the situation but because the media brushed it under the carpet for 2 years, in the complicit way they always have with rangers, the fans did not believe the ‘timmy conspiracy’ so i say it is poetic justice

  2. Jim Paterson says:

    This article is not up to Bella Caledonia standards. Clearly Rangers FC is a major cultural icon in Scotland. Its possible demise is interesting in many ways. This writer is deafened by the grinding of his own axe. The Rangers support, of which I am not, is not homogeneous. Interestingly the SNP were garnering support in their number at the last Holyrood elections. There have to be more subtle examinations of the Ibrox situation than this article which take cognisance of the complexities of the situation.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Jim, sorry you’re disappointed. We’re open to other contributions to explore what it might mean for Scotland, and we have Rangers fans amongst our contributors.

      One aspect that’s not focused on here is the role of business in football and how the whole game has been re-shaped to a corporate agenda. The reality is that Rangers fans know virtually nothing about their club, as Mr Whyte has refused to hold an AGM and there seems an almost total lack of transparency.

  3. Tom says:

    Disappointing lack of reflection or even information. I have no axe to grind (I’m a Partick Thistle fan for the record) but the conflation of Rangers, the cause of Scottish independence and their implicit well-known anti Irish agenda adds nothing and betrays a certain agenda that does Bella no favours. The pro-British agenda at Ibrox may however be relevant to the debate about Scotland’s future, but you chose to gloss that over, what a shame.

    1. LJS says:

      Yeah in terms of info on this topic Phil can’t hold a candle to this guy http://rangerstaxcase.com/ .

  4. I’m no fan of either half of the Old Firm, but I’d like to associate myself with these sentiments.

  5. tom says:

    Aye, quite. We get enough fitba in the MSM without it making a big showing here.

  6. tom says:

    I should add, a couple of weeks ago when one of the meretricious credit rating agencies mused that an independent Scotland might not have a triple A rating it was front page in all the press. Today’s doubt cast on the UK rating doesn’t feature in the Scottish press (too preoccupied with a fitba story). Funny, isn’t it not?

  7. Jimmy G says:

    How many British soldiers lives would have been saved if they paid the taxes 50 Million buys a lot of self defence . How many poppies does 50 million ponds buy . They have hid behind this for years Not just Scotlands Shame Britains Shame for a Club to flaunt the National anthem and sing god save the queen .

  8. Doug Daniel says:

    I find it bizarre that people are claiming that Scottish football needs Rangers. To believe these claims, you first of all need to believe that Scottish football is not already at death’s door. Newsflash: Scottish football is already rank rotten, thanks to the major gulf between the top two and The Rest, which has led to a complete death of competition. The SPL as it currently stands is nothing more than ten teams acting as collateral damage within the Old Firm cock-measuring contest.

    People say it will make the SPL boring because Celtic will permanently be crowned champions. Newsflash: the SPL is already boring, as are the cup competitions. The second the season kicks off, we already know who the top two teams will be, and the only people who care which order they finish is Old Firm fans. We also have a good idea who will be in the cup finals, unless we’re lucky enough to have them meet in the earlier rounds so that someone else can have a chance of being losing finalists. We tend to have six Old Firm derby matches every season. This is just ridiculous. For any other two teams, by the third meeting we’re thinking “urgh, not again”, but for these two every derby is as exciting as the last. You get the feeling that Old Firm fans would welcome a two-team league where they just played each other 38 times every season, and would never get bored.

    People have said “next step Celtic go, then you’ve basically got the Irish League.” Newsflash: for all the excitement and quality associated with the non-Old Firm teams, we might as well be in the Irish League already. Anyway, I would far rather watch a league with a bit of competition and a lack of overpaid primadonnas than the current stagnant rubbish we’re subjected to.

    I’ll shed no tears over Rangers going bust, except perhaps tears of joy and laughter. Remember folks, this is the team that thinks it’s too big for the SPL and wants to leave us in the lurch to go swanning into the English league. They don’t care about Scottish football, so why should Scottish football care about them? As a Dons fan, I can’t wait. I’ve long thought that sectarianism in Glasgow would be greatly decreased with the demise of the most prominent symbol of division in Glasgow, the Old Firm. The only sad thing is it’s just one half that is on its knees.

    (Actually, I say it’s bizarre, but in reality it’s perfectly normal that people believe these claims. We are masters of denying when something is wrong, or of completely ignoring obvious faults and flawed premises. Hence why there is even a debate over Scotland becoming independent (of course it should) and why people fall for the “necessary cuts” rubbish from neo-liberal governments and economists. I wish people would be a bit more questioning, so that instead of saying “is this the right answer?” they instead ask “is this even the right question?”)

  9. Edinburgh Quine says:

    I could care less about football. A load of daft laddies chasing a ball around a bit of grass. However, many people, men and women, seem to love it.
    I believe if football is to survive it has to go back to its grass (no pun intended) roots and get off that commercial roundabout with people from other parts of the world, who dont really care whether Elgin, or Falkirk, or Stirling have a team to follow.
    I live near Forres and the support from the fans is genuine and inclusive. They run fundraisers etc and really support their team, win, loose or draw. How can someone in Wick support Manchester United or Rangers. They can follow their progress but in the real sense, they cannot support. And what supporter can afford their prices to attend games. Put money into the small teams, forget the overpriced ‘star’ players and then when a Scottish team is required, MAYBE there will be a great pool of players on which to draw.
    And finally, given the meltdown of labour at Glasgow Council, surely there’s been enough newsprint and TV time spent on the subject?

  10. Dave mcewan Hill says:

    I will shed no tears for Rangers. I got trials for Benburb (the name tells you a lot),a Govan junior team known as the “wee Rangers”. This happened because my name doesn’t tell you “what school I went to”. Had that been known I wouldn’t have got those trials and even had I been as gifted as Pele I wouldn’t have got in the door at Ibrox for the same reasons. This was not hundreds of years ago and for the best part of a century a “great Scottish institution” practised vile sectarianism without any evidence of general public or civic disapproval whatsover.
    Over all the same years the other half of the “Old Firm” was determinedly non sectarian employing players of all persuasion and none and quite few Orangemen among so I continually stiffen when I hear Celtic and Rangers being employed in the same sentence as purveyors of
    Scottish sectarianism. That there is a defensive and reactive bigotry among supporters of Celtic today is without doubt and that the Labour party swim in this is in even less doubt as they try to make Scotland’s Catholic community suspicious of an independent Scotland.
    This is the inevitable result of an institutionailsed ant Catholic and anti Irish sentiment which was shrugged of as natural and normal in parts of Scotland right up to recent years. I can still remember the “No catholic need apply” in Glasgow shop windows in the 1960s.The late great Jock Stein, from an orange background, knew exactly what he wanted to do when he became Celtic’s manager. He despised what Rangers represented. I wonder what he would be saying today.

  11. Tocasaid says:

    Usual tribalist fitba based politics from MacGillaBhain. I don’t object to his views being heard here but he’s not up with the best. Any playground nyaff can play fitba rivalry.

    As someone who detests the bigotry of thousands of Rangers’ fans, there is no doubt that they are a longstanding Scottish institution. Should we keep all Scottish institutions? Mibbe. The Tories? Aye, as long as they command no more than 15% of the vote.

    Almost all of the arguments against RFC could apply to Celtic. So RFC fiddled their books? CFC employed a war criminal as chairman. Both too are ‘the man’ in terms of Scottish football. The only silver lining to Scottish football of the OF disappearing would be the loss of gloryhunters the nation over who neglect to support their local team for one half of the Ugly Sisters.

  12. Observer says:

    I seriously doubt that Rangers are at death’s door & I seriously doubt if most objective people would think that was a good thing. I imagine Ms Sturgeon for one.

    Mike Small got a hell of a doing on the Guardian. Please try & be more objective. This is not a football fanzine & today was embarrassing.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Graham Spiers, Rangers fan: “Today, I am suddenly confronted by a club in its death-throes.”

      1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

        “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us”.

        This “great Scottish institution” with a history for most of its life of vicious sectarianism and a support with an almost unrivalled record of trashing cities, attacking policeman on world wide television and so on might not be held in as high a regard as those who support it seem to imagine.
        I could go on at great length, and have in the past done so, on this issue, but I think this is perhaps not the time. Having the benefit of two Protestant grandfathers and two Catholic grandmothers I hope has given me balance.
        The fact is that for most of the twentieth century in many areas of central Scotland an almost unconscious anti Catholic bigotry was deeply ingrained and shared by perferctly decent people who assumed that every body thought as they did on the religious divide. It reminds me of the racialist attitude to immigrants which is widespread now, most particularly in England. Many of us will be receiving “jokes” online which are distributed on the basis that every normal body shares the same sentiments about the immigrants among us and there is genuine puzzlement when I express distaste. Those immigrants used to be our Catholics and I’m afraid very many decent Scots who know nothing of this do not understand this issue and understand even less how it can be manipulated against our movement to independence.
        I’m starting to go off at great length again so I’d better stop.

  13. Crìostòir-Pòl says:

    I don’t see the issue here, Phil is merely drawing a parallel between the long term decline in many pillars of Britishness (from the Empire to iconography over the last 100 years) and an institution that traditionally aligns itself with these elements. It’s a simple point to draw. Additionally, it was only a small point in a larger factually based article by a man with extensive knowledge and an unrivalled history of reporting on the subject, even when it was deemed taboo.

    I think for too many Rangers fans, and understandably it’s a sore point. Had Phil been a Rangers man he may have been listened to by the support, and indeed something may have been done to arrest the slide a long time ago. Know one likes an outsider criticising their club, for some Phil’s particular origin made it even more bitter to accept and all too easy to dismiss.

    For many nationalists who are not aligned to Celtic or Rangers, find the subject of the two clubs hard to accept. Partly because many do not have a full understanding of the matters and partly because many baulk at some of the mirkier associations that are often cast up at the mention of the name. It’s all too easy to dismiss it all under the often misleading label, the “Old Firm”.

    Regardless of opinions on one, the other or both, they are both huge clubs that play our national sport. Clearly given the size of both clubs, the size of our nation and the popularity of football, each club holds considerable influence. Given that we approach a historic cross roads we stand, the dramatic happenings at one of Scotland’s most prestigious and famous sporting clubs it would be folly not to look at it in a wider context. In a few years time, things that have long been regarded constants in modern Scotland may no longer exist.

  14. douglas clark says:

    Can I suggest that, given the aims of this blog – INDEPENDENCE – AUTONOMY – SELF-DETERMINATION – that the Rangers story is a toxic mess that the Scottish Government should do it’s best to stay out of?

    It seems to me that the cause of Scottish independence, etc is not improved by tying a nationalist agenda to a charactarisation of all Rangers supporters as beyond the pale. Nichola Sturgeon’s reaction to this seems to me to be about the right response. It concerned itself with the people who might, locally, lose their jobs. It most certainly did not insert itself into the somewhat fetid arena of sectarianism. Which Phil Mac Giolla Bhain appears to revel in.

    Just pointing out that this sort of commentary is extremely unhelpful.

    You may wish to think about that.

  15. another Tom says:

    Though it’s committed for the Olympics or the Commonwealth games or some other silly diversionary nonsense from real world events, the next stage should really be the demolition of the Ibrox stadium, accompanied by a public celebration, a symbol of oppression if ever there was one; the heated pitch surface if not irredeemably contaminated with a century of chemical fertiliser toxins, should be used for allotments or some similar project to give something back to the people of Glasgow that this club has preyed upon, indoctrinated and distracted into divisiveness and generally been a most malign influence upon.

    It is true enough about John Reid though, collective responsibility and all that, his dramatic tack from supposed left to authoritarian hawk is the classic neo-con conversion, but he just doesn’t fit the bill somehow, resembling a benign loved grandparent figure, a masterly cover. He would have to denounce his recent past and come clean on what he’s witnessed at the centre (we suppose) of power. His departure from Blair’s circle was a bit odd and rushed but whether he did jump or was pushed, for wishy-washy adherence to old-fashioned notions of human rights, rising revulsion as the necessary lies became ever more detached from reality -is hard for me to judge. I’m afraid there is too an element of the Celtic support that hints at the neanderthal, however much of that is attributable to the long prevailing discriminatory conditions the RC minority (not by conscious choice but pernicious labelling, without which they’d be healthy atheists and agnostics) have endured and will continue to feel the brunt end of, for a long time yet, perhaps for a generation or more after de-segregation of Scottish schools, it will remain an intensely irritating source of friction and easily stoked ‘divide and rule’ tactic to be exploited for our enslavement. The demise of RFC is a step into the light, I view it entirely positively – alright with some amount of due glee – but there’s too much, many greater, scarier things going on right now, the implosion of the UN for one and the totally unhinged, psychotic behaviour of the US that is following its denial of a UNSC rubberstamp or fig-leaf for a Libya mark 2 in Syria, and the road to Teheran through Damascus, they hope for in their quest for armageddon, or the obliterating sacrifice of these Islands of ours, as a demonstration of the seriousness of our crossing covertly the Russian-Chinese line-in-the-sand on another ‘humanitarian’ intervention in support of astro-turf external agitators and operatives. Football is an irrelevance, however much its rammed down our throats, ignore it, it WILL go away.

  16. Thom Cross says:

    ‘uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind. ‘ K Marx nails it for Rangers and Greece

  17. vronsky says:

    this is Kipling on the Clyde….this is “last night of the proms“ with goalposts.

    Loved that! The situation reminds me of the bumper sticker seen on (liberal-owned) US cars after the collapse of the Soviet Union “Evil Empires: one down, one to go”.

  18. Indy says:

    There are a lot of lazy generalisations in this article. For all the talk of Rule Britannia the fact is the electoral map around Ibrox turned yellow long before anywhere else in Glasgow. And they gave Nicola Sturgeon a stonking majority last year. You wonder if the author read Jonathan Mackie’s article before putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard perhaps. As far as I am aware Govan is the only ward where the SNP is putting up 3 candidates – and with a realistic expectation of seeing them all elected. How does that square with the stereotypes on display here ?
    The one that really stuck out for me was the characterisation of Ibrox as Kipling on the Clyde? How, I wonder, would that strike the many Rangers aupporters of Asian origin across the south side of Glasgow?
    Culture is just not that binary.

  19. david jack says:

    i’ve never read anything on your site before now. i was drawn here after reading mike small’s very similar article on rangers demise in the guardian.

    both articles are guilty of the lowest level of trolling and bitter point-scoring that i would expect from a radio phone-in or a blog rather than professional journalists.

    since this is the west of scotland i guess i need to lay my cards on the table. i am a rangers supporter. i have been since my father lifted me over the turnstiles as a boy. i am 100% atheist. i am a republican. i generally vote for the labour party. my wife and my daughter are both catholic.

    rangers are a football club. my love of rangers is for entirely footballing reasons. can you say that your obvious dislike of them is for the same?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Nobody’s a professional journalist. That’s the point. I am 100% atheist. I am a republican. My obvious dislike of your club is that it has become a citadel for sectarianism. I don’t care who you vote for or what religion your family are. It’s about what values institutions represent.

      1. Tocasaid says:

        One could probably say the same of the shipyards of the Clyde or Belfast. Are we glad they’re gone? I wonder if Connolly would be remembered as he is if he’d gone to the Protestant workers in Belfast and castigated them instead of uniting them with their Catholic co-workers? Just asking like.

        And, if Rangers are to be crushed not only by HMRC but by the righteousness of Celtic supporting Scots-cum-Irish then who next? Hearts? Dunfermline? Airdrie? Clyde? Hibs even? Or any club who has had a section of their support indulge in anti-social behaviour?

        Why not extend the smugness to other big companies and institutions? Irn-Bru maybe who have thousands of Scots kids’ rotten teeth on their hands?! Should Edinburgh Castle be erazed due its imperious position as a ‘citadel’ of Britishness in our capital? Sure, it was Scottish to begin with but so was Rangers.

        Comment on fitba by all means but keep the petty tribalism to the close-minded fitba forums. I doubt if it will further the independence argument one iota.

        1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

          This comment is not about “fitba”. It is about intolerance and bigotry.

      2. david jack says:

        whilst i understand that the rangers support is not the main topic of your article, would you not accept that sweeping generalisations like “The club’s support is defined a finely honed Anti-Irish racism” does nothing to enhance your arguments. whilst it is common knowledge that sections of the support do like to revel in pre-historic intolerances, demonising the entire support is the stuff of fanzines and forums.

        had you stuck to analysing how the current situation was allowed to develop and where the responsibility lies you would have left an entirely more worthy article but perhaps that wasn’t your brief.

        of course you’re absolutely entitled to not like something, but it’s hard to understand how the loss of an institution that means so much to a large portion of your country should be something to celebrate.

        people will lose their jobs. people will lose something that is a large part of their lives. all through the actions and to the financial benefit of a handful of men.

        how is celebrating this progressive?

        1. Jimmy G says:

          Because it was not that when they would not employ Catholics and they still hold a Non Eire signing policy . Everyone enjoys the death of a Rival and we are no different .

  20. Vronsky says:

    I hope Bella won’t drift into Labour’s looking-glass world where condemnation of intolerance is labelled as intolerance.


    1. bellacaledonia says:

      WE won’t.

  21. Murray Dick says:

    I think I’ll find out for myself. Cheers.

  22. bellacaledonia says:

    Sorry you feel that way.

  23. RHPS says:

    What a load of complete rubbish. This is Scottish Nationalism at it’s worst.
    They’re just a football team. They actually make millions of Scottish people happy.

    Can you understand that?

  24. RHPS says:

    “Everyone enjoys the death of a rival”

    “WE don’t”

  25. Zander says:

    Simple question.

    If Celtic were in a similar sitution would you post a similar story and be happy with the demise of the club.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Simple answer: No.

      I don’t believe in equivalence. I simply don’t believe that they’re ‘both as bad as each other.’

      No-one running this site is a Celtic fan. There’s a huge swathe of Scottish society beyond just Celtic supporters who find the actions of Rangers and some of their fans completely unacceptable. You might no like that but it’s true.

  26. vronsky says:

    Let’s dispose of the ‘I’m a Rangers fan and I’m not a bigot’ trope (or do I mean tripe). That just places the speaker in the same bracket as the concentration camp guards who said they never really hurt anyone. Perhaps true in some cases, but the bastards knew what was going on. If you’re there, you’re culpable because you could choose not to be there – maybe the concentration camp guards at least had the reasonable excuse that they’d didn’t have that choice. Fact is, decent people wouldn’t touch RFC with a barge pole and a condom on the end. Go out and meet them – not difficult, it’s almost everyone, I’m glad to say.

  27. 0RabJ says:

    My impression from reading this article is that Scottish Nationalists have a pathological hatred of Rangers fans.

    Only a fool would generalise hundreds of thousands of people as we see here. Comparing “Rangers fans” to Nazi concentration camp guards is not acceptible.

    It’s false-intellectualism. All of it.

    Get a grip people. To quote Boab from the Granton Star Cause, “It’s a kick-aboot! A… kick-aboot”.

  28. carlislecelt says:

    There is nothing pathological about my hatred for Ranjurz!

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