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Will the Worm Turn? By Robert Ryan

April 27, 2012

The following piece first appeared in the Ben Lomond Free Press this morning. The BLFP is a daily blog written by former Sonstrust board member Robert Ryan ; and the article in question is a fantastic summary of the situation at Glasgow Rangers FC.

Thanks to Robert for allowing us to use his ‘work’!

THE worm turns – Used to describe when a person or group of people who have been treated badly for a long time suddenly become forceful and stop accepting a difficult situation.

I wonder if anyone remembers the setting up of the Self Preservation League (SPL) back in 1998? Remember those heady days when the top ten clubs headed by our old chums Rangers and Celtic cut adrift the rest of Scottish Football and left them to their fate?

In an act similar in principle to the Highland clearances, the poor were left to their own devices by the aristocracy. The aristocracy had discovered that by simply jettisoning any obligation to their neighbours they could increase the bottom line on their balance sheets.

The Highlanders in the 18th and 19th centuries were left to rebuild their lives by emigration to the new world as the Duke of Sutherland and the like counted their ever increasing piles of cash. The SFL clubs 200 years later were left with no TV money, very little transfer income and a list of criteria almost guaranteed to bankrupt any one of them should they finish top of the pile and thus qualify for the one place available through promotion each season.

Like the resourceful Highlanders of yore, the SFL clubs carved out a future for themselves. Through resourceful and innovative management they attracted sponsorship (The Irn Bru deal has been a long lived and successful one for all parties). The play off system has its supporters and detractors but it has certainly led to many more meaningful games.

In SFL 2 at least six clubs out of ten will be involved in the final mix.

And so to the point of all this.


There has been much talk in recent days that a newco Rangers might just have to start again in the third division of the SFL. Even their manager was quoted as saying that this might be the preferred option.

That’s right, Rangers. Prime movers in the setting up of the SPL and in the time since, along with their Old Firm partners Celtic trying to find some loophole, some way of leaving Scottish football for good and joining the English Premiership.

To play in a different league.

To play in an environment in keeping with their history and status within the game.

It’s a very long way down from the FA Premiership to SFL 3 but Rangers might just find that there would be similar difficulties in gaining admission.

SFL chief David Longmuir outlines in this morning’s press the process that a club, any club would have to go through should a vacancy arise.

In the case of Rangers the SFL clubs would perhaps be tempted by the money and media interest that a re-emerging club would bring into the league. However they would have to balance that with the fact that the third, second and first division championships would be a no contest in the respective following three seasons.

Also, in a footballing environment mercifully free of the issues that surround the Old Firm, there would have to be a real threat of sanctions on supporters’ behaviour to maintain that state of affairs.

It would also be interesting what the opinion of supporters of clubs in the SFL think about this.

Spartans, Cove Rangers and Preston Athletic would probably be able to put forward better long term applications for membership. Any Rangers newco membership would be for three years.

It is looking increasingly likely that the former noble lord who once contemptuously dismissed the pleas of the mendicant serfs may now be throwing themselves on their mercy.

That mercy is, in all honesty, likely to be given but it should not be taken for granted.

Robert Ryan

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