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Soccer

Rangers Finds Its Way Through Soccer Backlands

In previous seasons, Rangers would be going through its usual start-of-season plans: open the league season and prepare for European competition. The latter won’t happen for at least several years as Rangers begin a new life in Scotland’s soccer hinterlands.

After the club was declared insolvent last season through a tax dispute with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and no agreement was completed with creditors, Rangers was forced to reorganize as a new company. Scottish club officials refused to allow it to return to the Scottish Premier League, so Rangers was placed at the country’s lowest professional level: the Third Division of the Scottish Football League.

Instead of the Champions or Europa League, Rangers has become a de facto sideshow for the division’s nine other clubs, an opportunity to get two home sellouts (teams play each other four times a season). Many fans might have expected Rangers to tear through the league, but Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Berwick means Rangers has won just once, with two draws, in its opening matches.

With demotion and cost-cutting, Rangers allowed many of last season’s players to go elsewhere for top-flight play elsewhere, most without a transfer fee. Players who went the England’s Premier League on free transfers included Steve Naismith at Everton, Jamie Ness at Stoke City and Steven Whittaker at Norwich City. Southampton grabbed Steven Davis and paid just $1.4 million for him.

Rangers likely will promote this season. The question is how fast Rangers can return to what it may call its rightful place: the SPL. The league is not the same without them.