By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (July 17, 2012) US Soccer Players – Scottish club soccer cedes control If you checked the Wikipedia page for Scotland's Third Division shortly after it was announced that Rangers would be playing there this season, you would've seen them listed as "Cheaters." For enough Scottish soccer fans, that's the carryover from the Rangers fall from the top of the club game to the bottom. Unfortunately for Scottish soccer, too many people running the game were concerned about appeasing the majority rather than considering the consequences.
That's not an isolated opinion at this point. As the scenario was supposed to have played out according to reports, the Premier League would take the hard line. Rangers would be dropped from the Premier League - sanctioned by the Scottish Football Association - into the Football League. Those clubs would take the unpopular step of placing Rangers in the First Division, or so the Premier League thought. Even with the ban on signing players, the realistic expectation would have Rangers back in the Premier League by next season.
Instead, not wanting to be left out of a broad attempt at satisfying public opinion, the lower division teams followed the Premier League's lead. Given what the leadership of enough clubs were saying publicly before the vote along with the outcry from fans, this shouldn't have been a surprise. The mood of Scottish club soccer in its entirety had shifted against Rangers. This was allowed to happen before the votes took place out of convenience.
No one wants to talk about the real world impact of taking what at the time was a popular decision. Not only did the clubs know the likely outcome of dropping Rangers, so did the media and the fans. Those who put the stress on that part of the equation were dismissed as propping up the Old Firm just like always. It was lost on too many people that there's a reason those with influence prop up the Old Firm just like always.
A year out of the top flight might be a short enough period of time for the Premier League to salvage its broadcast and sponsorship deals. Instead, once again, Scottish club soccer has been thrown into crisis.
Now, the question moves to whether or not giving the loudest fans what they want was a fully thought out idea. The immediate response is that of course it wasn't. The Premier League passed on the tough decision. Dropping Rangers from the Premier League gave the Football League too much responsibility for Premier League business. It also gave them an example for how to treat Rangers.
Lost in all of this is that the fans pushing for Rangers exile were acting as fans. Their concern wasn't Scottish club soccer as a business. There's a good argument that it wasn't even some vague concept of what it means to be a fiscally responsible Scottish soccer club. It was that Rangers got caught. Mighty Rangers, along with their colleagues Celtic the two clubs that fans of the other teams would very much like to see brought low. And why not? That's part of the point of being a fan. Pick a league and there are entire segments of the fan base waiting patiently to have a laugh at a big club's expense. It's part of the game.
Unfortunately, for Scottish soccer this got confused with doing their duty to preserve what's best about their league setup. It became a mandate. Punish Rangers as severely as possible to preserve the rest. Remember, there were very real discussions of not admitting Rangers at any professional level even after the former club was liquidated and reestablished as a new company.
It's now clear that, at some point, the authorities in Scottish soccer should've stepped in to limit these discussions. The scenario that their own clubs were willing to put in play was clear well before the votes were taken. Instead, the mood shifted to the point where putting Rangers in the Fourth Division started to seem like more than a popular idea. It began to seem like a good one.
At the end of the discussion, there's always been one major problem. It's one I've had on repeat here for weeks. Had Rangers found someone willing to spend before they went into administration, we're not having this conversation. Rangers ran out of money, and it became too easy to confuse that with a violation of sporting ideals.
Other clubs aren't going to be deciding whether or not the actions taken too punish Rangers and appease public opinion went too far. That's now the role of the broadcasters and sponsors.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.
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