Ex-Hearts chairman says SPL can cope without Rangers

The prospect of Hearts facing Rangers again next season is in doubt as the Ibrox club face up to liquidation
The prospect of Hearts facing Rangers again next season is in doubt as the Ibrox club face up to liquidation
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SCOTTISH football will survive without Rangers. That was the message today from the former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans as the Ibrox club teeter on the brink of liquidation. Deans is adamant the Scottish Premier League does not need either of the Old Firm for life support, although he acknowledged the financial hit of losing the income they generate.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will tomorrow vote against the Company Voluntary Arrangement proposed by Charles Green, the man whose consortium is in prime position to gain control of Rangers. That will force Green to liquidate the company and reform as a “new Rangers”, but SPL clubs would then require to vote on whether they should remain in the top flight. An 8-4 vote in Rangers’ favour would be needed, with some clubs and their supporters already against the idea.

If Rangers were expelled from the SPL, every club would suffer financially given the size of the Glasgow club’s travelling support and the fact the current SPL broadcasting deal is conditional upon there being four Old Firm matches each season. But Deans, like many others, is not downbeat about the prospect of life without Rangers.

He spoke to the Evening News to outline why Scottish football is more self-sufficient than some people may imagine. “The question of whether Scottish football would survive without Celtic or Rangers has been asked before,” he said. “A few years ago the Old Firm talked of leaving Scotland to play south of the border. If it had happened, hypothetically, would Scottish football have survived? I personally believe the answer is it definitely would.

“It’s reasonable to assume that my own club, Hearts, might have made it into the Champions League by virtue of winning the SPL or coming second in the SPL. The same opportunity would also have been available to Aberdeen, Hibs, Dundee United, Motherwell and eveyone else. Just because Rangers or Celtic aren’t there, it’s not to say Scottish football wouldn’t exist. Of course it would exist. It’s a fallacy to say otherwise.”

Conversely, Deans admitted every club would suffer financially if a “newco” Rangers were demoted to the Third Division to start again. Suggestions are SPL clubs would be, on average, £375,000 worse off without the Glasgow club. According to Deans, most could just about cope with such a scenario. He stressed that maintaining sporting integrity was of paramount importance, with Rangers owing HMRC unpaid taxes and standing accused of using paying players through a trust account.

“Rangers have 40,000 season ticket holders, play to 45,000 or 50,000 people at home, take a big travelling support and are a major factor in the television deals. It would be naive to say that the demise of Rangers would not be felt financially by the rest of Scottish football. It would be. But perhaps that’s the penalty Scottish football has to accept. A new Rangers starts at a low level and works its way back up. Perhaps in three or four years, Rangers Football Club may well have regained a place at the top table. There is the economic argument that Rangers, with their support, need to be playing at the highest level of Scottish football. The other argument is that, for football to have any integrity, sanctions need to be taken. I believe that would mean Rangers not participating in the SPL. It is a decision the clubs will have to take but it is a difficult one.

“If they do go down the route of preventing a new Rangers getting into the SPL then there could be adverse financial consequences. That’s at a time when Scottish football is already feeling the pinch in a big way. At Tynecastle, we have had to release players of the quality of Rudi Skacel and Ian Black for financial reasons. Hearts are being forced to downsize.

“It is a big factor for clubs to give up revenue but the integrity of football is something that will no doubt be paramount in the minds of many clubs. If they didn’t take action, then a club which has not abided by the rules will escape sanction and that would probably be quite reprehensible.”