Yesterday Ally McCoist, the manager of Glasgow Rangers, cut a weary and haunted figure. Notably aged and understandably anxious he had to sit through his side succumbing to a hefty loss at the hands of their nemesis, Celtic.
This was the last Old Firm meeting of the season and Celtic, recently declared as Scottish champions, relished the opportunity to thump Rangers in front of a buoyant green and white support. Rangers were down and Celtic made sure they gave them one last swift kick.
Before the game it was suggested that McCoist would be happy to get a big game to focus on and take his mind off of the financial woes facing his club. However, witnessing his team getting shunted aside by Celtic must have made it all the harder to face the issues.
Rangers are staring towards a stark future. Because of their well publicized issues with the taxman and Britain’s Inland Revenue there have been court cases and point deductions as the Scottish giants plummeted into administration. Since then their owner, the shamed Craig Whyte, has been handed a lifetime ban from all involvements with Scottish football.
Sound like a soap opera? Well it goes deeper than this.
The representatives of all Scottish Premier League sides are due to meet to decide on how punishments for debt riddled clubs will be dealt with in the future. These same representatives are also set to have their say on whether any ‘newco’ side, where a liquidated Rangers will start over again as a fresh entity, can re-enter the SPL.
If this were to happen then it must be discussed whether a two year 10-point deduction would be in place and if it is right that such a ‘new’ club should be stripped of 75% of their income for three years.
The issue with a ‘newco’ is that it is hardly fair that such a financially toxic institution can be gifted a second chance because of the size of their club. It is, however, also noteworthy that Sky Sports, the most affluent broadcaster in the UK, has a deal to show four Old Firm matches a season, at the very least. If the new Rangers were forced into the lowest tier of Scottish soccer that would mean no Old Firm fixtures and little interest from Sky to provide the SPL with coverage.
It is a case of being caught between two harsh futures. A lot falls to the committee voting, but it is likely that credibility would be the first casualty in this war for the pockets. As well as this there are currently two offers tabled for Rangers, with US tycoon Ben Miller staking a claim and a consortium known as the Blue Knights teaming up with rugby’s Sale Sharks’ owner Brian Kennedy to make a bid. Yet it remains to be seen if these groups are have enough money to quickly pay off debts or are waiting for liquidation.
The great shame of all of this is that, away from the politics, yesterday’s game had a stirring atmosphere and some sublime soccer. Celtic careened into playing lovely crosses and stretching the Gers, with their first goal coming from a powerful, bouncing Charlie Mulgrew header from the edge of the box and the second and third coming from blistering runs and strong boots by Kris Commons and Gary Hooper respectively.
Hooper’s goal, in particular, was a sumptuous effort as strike partner Giorgio Samaras prodded through a perfectly weighted pass with the outside of his boot, which Hooper allowed across his body before punching a right-footed strike into the roof of the net.
Games like these are special and fraught with splendor. Simply talking about them creates confusing sentences like this last one, but that is what happens at the Old Firm: sense, structure and social norms peel away. It is a shame that even if this is not the last Old Firm ever, the next one will be damaged and forced because of what was allowed to happen at Ibrox.