Scottish Football this season has been played out not in the pitch but instead in spreadsheets and financial plans it seems. Rangers FC are paying the price for irresponsible and negligent financial management. This has been well documented.
It is unclear how it will end but, will it open up the British football fans’ minds and slap some sense into them? Can I put it another way: will how Rangers react to their predicament see a socialist revolution in football? It should.
Let me explain. First of all a summary of the situation.
Rangers are in debt: like just about every football club in the country. But this club owes the taxman big. They used offshore accounts (EBTs) for contracts. The taxman is now taking Rangers to court to question the validity of this. New owner Craig Whyte also failed to hand over £9million in tax from this season.
Celtic faced somewhat similar troubles, in the sense of debt rather than tax problems, in 1994, but the Rangers support were far more concerned with winning everything in sight to raise much about the issue. Indeed Rangers’ support were certainly too drunk with success only 5 years later to notice that their own club were embarking on suicidal financial planning. Since the end of the 90s David Murray, then chairman, embarked on ludicrous spending that would eventually lead Rangers to serious debt.
In a bitter twist of fate, it is David Murray, the man who is surely responsible for a blackhole of millions owed to the British Government’s HRMC, was knighted.
But that was then and this is now. Rangers, inconceivably found themselves with a spiv who would shame Fools and Horses’ Del Boy in charge of their club. He seemed to charm some in the Rangers support and now is in hiding, along with over £20 million that he assures everyone has been accounted for. Reminiscent of Father Ted and millions ‘resting in his account’ you may think. It looks like this will be solved in the courts and let’s leave it at that for the moment.
But this isn’t really about Rangers. Well, not only Rangers.
This is now. And faced with debts and no more overdrafts Rangers are fighting in the now to ensure there is a tomorrow. Rangers FC owe the taxman money and it should be paid. That much is certain.
Now what about a Socialist revolution?
The one-man model of ownership in football, for Rangers at least, has failed. It has failed and brought an institution to its knees. Are Rangers the only football club in financial trouble? Unfortunately not. Chelsea and Manchester United have a combined debt of over £1billion.
This week Everton manager David Moyes was calling for all EPL players to take a 20% wage cut and clubs all over Britain have been going in, and sometimes not out, of administration. Despite the joy some may take in Rangers’ plight, it is evident that football is in trouble. In England. In Scotland. From top to bottom.
The one owner model has failed and corrupted sport. Rangers’ fans, one presumes, will attempt to fund a takeover. The average punter bailing out the failed financial idiocy of successive individuals at the top of the pile. Does that sound familiar? It should, our taxes paid for the same thing with the financial system. The average punter bailing out Rangers will likely lead to a dramatic shift in the business model of the club.
Not only will fans’ representation be pushed for, but outright fan ownership will be demanded. An end to egos and suits in charge of the club to be replaced with those with the best interests at heart: supporters.
It is not just the fans to be fair; Rangers’ players have taken a 75% wage reduction in an unprecedented step for footballers. Rangers may not even survive in their current form for this to take place but, surely the need for this to happen across the board will be realised?
When did it become acceptable for charmless individuals to be in charge of our football clubs? For them to charge the people a fortune for a ticket and steadily price the working class out of the stadiums? When did football fans stop getting treated like people and instead like dirt or even worse… customers?
Fan ownership should be the blueprint to follow for every club. Never again should an individual own a club with their decisions being unchallenged by the ones that make football clubs what they are: the supporters.
The Rangers case will become clearer as the months go past. What should already be clear is that football fans need to take the power back from the ones we surrendered it to. Football clubs are awash with debt. Of all major clubs in Britain, only Arsenal have anything that resembles sustainable finances. And they haven’t won a thing in years.
So what is the vision? Fulham fans staging a coup-de-etat against their millionaire owner and pulling down a statue of Michael Jackson in a scene similar to the uprising of the Iraqi people? Manchester United fans doing a bit more than wearing ghastly green and yellow scarfs and ousting the Glaziers? Liverpool fans finally cracking and overthrowing their American owners in a Cuban style revolution? Maybe not.
But maybe, just maybe the Rangers fans saving their own club never to allow a self-serving parasite to own their club again will happen in the coming months. If it does, I hope they are not the only club to do so.
And if not? Be prepared to bail out your own club in the not too distant future. How will football fans react? Will it see a socialist revolution in football? It should.