Sevco Scotland – the new club formed from the ashes of Rangers FC PLC (in administration) – played its first ever game this afternoon. And the plucky third division underdogs pulled off an upset by scraping past second division Brechin City after extra time in the first round of the Ramsden’s Cup.
For the record Sevco, known it seems as “The Rangers”, triumphed by 2 – 1. A triallist opened the scoring for the new club before Andrew Jackson levelled the match for the home team. A late winner from Lee McCulloch took the new club through to the second round.
For those unfamiliar with the bottom reaches of Scottish football, the pawnbroker sponsored cup is a wee early season tournament to give all of the lower league teams a chance at glory.
The Sevco side contained a number of former Rangers players, but the new club could only muster up four substitutes. Sevco wore the same blue kit as the former cub and what appeared to be the same badge – although the five stars appeared to be missing.
Still, some things didn’t change. The new club’s fans seem to have picked up an old song book. Ian Black was booked for a terrible challenge. Kirk Broadfoot dived in an attempt to win a penalty. And Lee McCulloch is still an awful footballer.
Now it should not be forgotten that this match was only allowed to take place after a shoddy backroom deal that involved yet another mangling of the rules of Scottish football.
On Friday evening, long after normal office hours and (conveniently) as the world was awaiting the opening of the London Olympics, a press release emerged from Hampden Park. After lengthy negotiations it was revealed that Sevco FC had been awarded “conditional membership” of the SFA.
A quick look at the SFA Handbook, which contains all of the rules that the governing body is supposed to follow, confirmed what I had suspected: there is no mention of “conditional membership” at all. There is quite simply no such thing. It is a contrived and made up status that has come into existence purely for the benefit of Sevco.
And, of course, to spare the blushes of those who have twice been rebuffed in efforts to promote this brand new club, as first the SPL rejected its application and then SFL clubs threw out an unwarranted jump straight into its first division.
So what are the conditions attached to this “conditional membership”?
Well apparently Sevco has agreed to accept the consequences of charges relating to the former Rangers FC PLC (in administration). This includes a fine and a transfer ban. Sevco will also pay all football debts accrued by the soon to be liquidated club.
Now that raises a whole bunch of questions in my mind, including:
- How can a new club be fined for something that took place before it even existed?
- How can Charles Green accept a transfer ban when the former club went to court to have that sanction declared illegal?
- Why on earth would a transfer ban start from after the transfer window closed?
- If Sevco is paying the football debts of the former club, does it not also become liable for the non-football debts?
The basic problem that creates all of these issues is a simple one: Sevco wants to be Rangers some of the time but not all of the time. It wants to square that circle so that it can be known as Rangers, attract fans of the former Rangers and even claim the trophies previously won by Rangers. But it doesn’t want to pay the £100,000,000+ of debts that will lead to the liquidation of Rangers.
Sevco could not apply to join the SFL as a new club. It simply wouldn’t be eligible – although given the contortions of the rule books that have taken place that might not have been an obstacle. Instead it chose to apply to have the SFA membership of Rangers transferred to it. And that’s why the issue of accepting the issues that come along with that membership arise.
But the biggest difficulty for Green and Sevco in this bizarre arrangement might just be yet to come.
The SPL suspended its inquiry into payments made to dozens of former Rangers players that were not contained in the contracts lodged with the footballing authorities. These are the payments made through Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) that led to the Big Tax Case. And it is important to note that even should the independent tribunal make the unlikely ruling that these payments were legal, they would still have broken the laws of football.
The SPL has agreed that a case exists against the soon to be liquidated Rangers. And should that case be proven it would mean that pretty much every game that the Ibrox team played over at least ten seasons contained ineligible players in their side. The normal consequence of such rule breaking is that the match is forfeited. And that would mean cups and league titles would be removed from the former club.
But what would the penalty for years of rule breaking be? And will any penalty now be applied to Sevco as part of the “conditional membership” deal? If so then the expulsion of the club from football is the only logical outcome.
Sevco FC may yet go down in Scottish football history as the first team to fail to make it to the end of its inaugural season.
Unless of course the rules are changed again … and given the bizarre tale that has unfolded so far, who would bet against it?