Does Scottish Football Need Rangers FC? Re-visiting the Arguments

I have already covered this issue in a previous post []. A great friend and colleague, however, who goes by the name of Phil Gibbs, posed several interesting questions. I re-cite Phil's questions here in the hope that all fans would be able to constructively contribute to the discussion. I am simply offering guidance in this post and if you are interested in my personal views, you may always visit the link above, which could refer you to the relevant previous post.

Phil Gibbs is asking the following questions. Let us consider them:

"What a difficult trap for other clubs? Let Rangers get away with it or sanction proportionately and suffer own dire financial consequences - TV deals/gate receipts etc.
What would Scottish football look like without Rangers? From the outside it would be easy to say 'detonate Rangers', but the impact may be too damaging on others?Your thoughts on whether this should impact on sanctions?"

Phil's questions are very important simply because they come from a barrister with an independent view. In this business, we are trained to keep an open mind, as anger and hatred could usually cloud your judgement and affect your reasoning. With this in mind, I can safely say that the questions above need to be considered seriously, particularly from the so-called 'smaller clubs' point of view. In my previous post entitled 'Celtic v Rangers: Two Clubs with One Reason to Unite a Nation', I specifically made the point that the Scottish economy receives, to a great extent, a significant figure from the existence of a strong competition in the SPL. Such figure could not be underestimated, nor could it be dismissed at face value.

The argument was also made that the principle of commodification of sport, which suggests that football is a product and has to be marketed as such, clearly demonstrates the need for competition. Unlike other markets where competitors fight against each other for total elimination, in football, competitors need each other, as without the competition, such competitors would have no reason to exist. The argument was also made that without Rangers FC in the game, the short term effects would probably create irreversible situations in the long term. Although such argument may sound pedantic, it, nevertheless, suggests that TV income would be reduced, as well as gate receipts, with the result to bring further reductions in sponsorship money. If a club's income is reduced, then the club would not be able to afford players' salaries and there would inevitably be further cuts. 

In addition to the above paragraph, we also need to consider the sporting aspect too. Players need the competition, in order for them to keep a high level of fitness. Without offending the other clubs in the SPL, it appears, at least in the short term, that Celtic may not have to face such immense competition. Interest immediately would be diminished, not only from Celtic's point of view, but also from the point of view of the independent and neutral observer. I need to emphasise again that without a considerable income available from a comprehensive TV deal, the long-term effects would be catastrophic. 

Finally, the most difficult part of the discussion, relates to Phil's last question regarding the sanctions. Other than the legal questions, the fans inevitably would divert to a discussion of morality. In other words, a discussion would arise as to whether Rangers FC must be allowed back to the SPL [with the same or new status] given that there is an alleged case of cheating.

In my personal opinion, a discussion of morality leads nowhere. The important and necessary point, under the present circumstances, is the purposeful and correct application of the regulatory framework. We all need to remember that if this matter ends up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the judges would look at what the rules say and they would base their decision simply on what the relevant sanctions are. 

In conclusion, you do not need to be a lawyer, in order for you to appreciate what the disciplinary bodies in Scotland would decide. They would be guided by what the tariffs are and simply speaking, they cannot create new rules, or apply the current rules in a way that their application would create a mischief or an ambiguous result. The judges, in my opinion, cannot stretch the boundaries of their judicial creativity, because justice and morality so dictate. Sometimes, justice and convenience are at odds and they seldom speak with a single voice. 

It follows, therefore, that there is a big difference between what Scottish football needs and what the rules say. The former may be based on political and economic considerations, whereas the latter is based on the application of the rules and the law. In my books and, certainly, in my practicing life, the latter always prevail.

Dr. Gregory Ioannidis

16 May 2012


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