A HEARTS supporters’ chief today declared that his club could thrive in the SPL without Rangers because they would stand a stronger chance of challenging Celtic for the league championship.
Steve Kilgour, secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs, believes expelling Rangers from the SPL would actually benefit Hearts more than most clubs. He argued that crowds would rise if the Tynecastle side emerged as genuine title contenders, thus creating a feel-good factor and generating more interest in his club.
The Ibrox side are likely to reform as a “newco” following confirmation that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will not back a CVA proposal to exit administration. SPL clubs must vote on whether a new Rangers should be readmitted to the league, with an 8-4 majority required.
Kilgour admitted different clubs will have different attitudes on how to vote but stressed that, in the event of Rangers being refused entry, Hearts could be the main beneficiaries on the field.
“Not having Rangers in the SPL might help us because, if we were to emerge as a challenger to Celtic, our crowds could go up,” he said. “When clubs are challenging attendances rise. Look at Hibs when they got relegated to the First Division – their crowds went up because they had a team that was winning. Folk will go and watch a winning team no matter what level it is.
“I think Hearts are one of the clubs it wouldn’t impact too heavily on. Clubs have been relegated from the Premier League and survived so I’m sure they can survive in an SPL without Rangers. The TV money might drop but I don’t think Hearts would suffer.
“Go back to the 2006 season when we were filling Tynecastle ourselves, with or without the Old Firm coming to Edinburgh. A lot of things come with the Old Firm and when they visit a lot of people don’t go any more.”
Kilgour explained that most fans he consulted feel Rangers should suffer for failing to pay taxes and entering administration whilst owing millions of pounds. Hearts themselves are due £800,000 from the Glasgow club as part of Lee Wallace’s £1.5million transfer from Tynecastle to Ibrox last year.
Kilgour is concerned about the impact of not receiving that money. “A lot of Scottish football supporters, not just Hearts supporters, feel Rangers shouldn’t get off scot free,” said Kilgour. “The worry for us is where it leaves Hearts because we’re due a sizeable amount of money and that could leave us in a very vulnerable position.
“It was well documented the problems we had paying wages last season. The SPL have been quick to act on that so any club not paying wages on time next year will be punished. We could end up being punished because Rangers can’t pay us our money.
“There has to be heavy sanctions against Rangers but I don’t know the best way to go. Some of the smaller clubs really need the Old Firm’s support.
“I think Hearts have got to look after themselves. The club has to explore every avenue to recoup the Lee Wallace money.”