Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Stephen Craigan: No chance Rangers will walk away

Rangers fans show their passion at Ibrox

Charles Green has certainly made his mark on Scottish football since taking control of The Rangers in May 2012 but this week’s comments about his club seeking to leave Scottish football is like water off a duck's back for the rest of the teams.

Every season for one reason or another it’s spoken about and everyone has an opinion on it but nothing ever materialises.

For the foreseeable future I think it’s a distant dream for either of the Old Firm to be plying their trade in a different league or different country, though I don’t think that will stop them from investigating the possibilities.

Green's comments came on the back of reconstruction plans in Scotland that if passed would see Rangers stay in the lowest tier of the game even if as expected they win the third division.

This is where I have sympathy with Green's plight. During the summer, amidst the debate of where to place the “Newco” Rangers, the phrase “sporting integrity” was being bandied about by everyone from supporters to chairmen.

On the grand scheme of things the majority agreed with the principle of Rangers starting at the bottom of the football pyramid and working their way up on the “sporting integrity” basis.

However there seems to have been a sudden loss of memory from some people, primarily Stewart Regan (SFA Chief executive), Neil Doncaster (SPL Chief executive) and David Longmuir (SFL Chief executive) who are at the heart of the reconstruction plans on behalf of their respective organisations.

For any club to have invested in the hope of gaining promotion only to see the rules potentially changed halfway through that season with no prior notice surely isn’t on the same “sporting integrity” wavelength everyone highlighted last summer.

I for one think if both Old Firm sides were to leave Scottish football or if one of them left, it would rip the heart out of the game here.

Yes, it would make it more competitive and give teams the chance to win a league title but would the league itself be of an interest to TV companies and other major commercial partners? I think not.

Celtic and Rangers are the major factor in any real sponsorship money that is brought into Scottish football. Some supporters will disagree with my prognosis but that is the reality of it. The worldwide appeal of both clubs maintains the interest in the Scottish game. There’s been no significant increase in attendances in what has been the most exciting SPL in years. SPL TV viewing figures are also down without Rangers so other clubs supporters need to look at the bigger picture I’m afraid.

I feel that Charles Green's wish to leave Scotland is out of frustration for what he feels is a lack of respect towards his club. Having not been consulted in negotiations and for what they potentially bring to the game financially, Green is upset.

It’s the worst kept secret that both Old Firm clubs in the past have tried to negotiate into other league structures without success so far. I’ve no doubt if Rangers or Celtic left for an Atlantic league (proposed in 2000 for Scottish, Dutch, Portuguese and Belgian leagues) or the English Premiership they would grow even bigger than what they currently are but unfortunately the door seems closed.

Publicly both clubs need to focus their energy on attempting to put Scottish football right and then one day you never know, Man United versus Rangers or Celtic could be a regular fixture!

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