Let’s be honest, the current TV deal that the SPL has with Sky and ESPN is far from generous. And it is hardly surprising that this is the case either, after the SPL had to come cap in hand to both networks after the collapse of Setanta. But even though the TV deal is not particularly lucrative, it would take a dramatic drop in the wrong direction were Rangers not to survive administration and find themselves out of the league.
When Rangers went into administration on Tuesday, they were automatically docked 10 points under SPL guidelines. While it meant that they dropped 14 points behind leaders Celtic, they remained in 2nd place, 9 points ahead of Motherwell who have a game in hand. But there are rumours that Celtic’s chief executive Peter Lawwell has been talking to SPL chairmen, and will be pressing for Rangers to receive more sanctions. If Rangers were to go into liquidation and relinquish their spot in the SPL, it seems that Lawwell may be trying to persuade the rest of the SPL to not allow Rangers back into the top flight if they were reformed as Rangers FC 2012, or any other new name.
It will hardly be a surprise to Rangers fans if this is indeed true. Peter Lawwell has never been shy about making derogatory comments about Rangers during his time at Celtic, and has continued to do so in the last three years, despite Rangers winning the SPL title three times in a row. It would of course benefit Celtic enormously if Rangers were not in the SPL, as they would be all but guaranteed to win the league title. But it would hardly benefit the other 11 teams in the league.
Rangers and Celtic of course provide the biggest away support in Scottish football. The 10 other SPL clubs regularly increase ticket prices when the Glasgow clubs come to town, and they always have their biggest gates of the season when they face either half of the Old Firm at home. The other SPL clubs have in the past been reluctant to back changes to the structure of the SPL that would lead to each club playing each other twice, rather than four times a season. This is because they’d lose a visit by both Glasgow clubs and the increased revenue that those games bring.
It would be possible for one SPL club to offset those losses, as whoever finishes 2nd in the SPL qualifies for the Champions League, and will get at least one home match in the qualifying stage. The 2nd placed team goes into the non-champions section, and could face the champions of Belgium, Croatia or Sweden amongst others. Were they to win that tie, they would then face a team from England, Spain, Germany, France or Italy, almost certainly giving them a sell out crowd as well as live television coverage.
So while one club could possibly benefit that way for each season there was no Rangers in the SPL, other clubs would certainly miss the added revenue they receive from Rangers fans. The 10 other SPL clubs rarely have matches shown live on television when they are not playing either half of the Old Firm. The Edinburgh derbies are always shown live, but it is only occasionally that games are shown live involving neither Old Firm team. Without the lure of four Old Firm ties, it is more than possible that Sky would seek to renegotiate the TV deal, and that the 12 SPL clubs would receive less money for the 2012-13 season if it didn’t feature Rangers.
It would perhaps seem unfair if Rangers could go into liquidation, and then be reborn as ‘Rangers FC 2012’ or something similar, debt free and able to resume playing in the SPL. Perhaps a points deduction at the start of the season would be a more suitable arrangement than forcing Rangers to begin again in the 4th tier of the Scottish game. That would keep the lucrative four Old Firm matches intact, and also generate a lot of media coverage, as Rangers attempted to climb up the table from behind the other 11 teams.
While many fans of clubs in Scotland will be enjoying Rangers drop into administration, they should be careful what they wish for. The finances of Rangers are under scrutiny now, the rest of the SPL’s teams may find their own finances getting a lot of attention if they try to survive without them.
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