Guard of dishonour…

He’s right of course. Colin Hendry. Celtic may well achieve 10 in a row Scottish Premier League titles, but it won’t be 10 in a row against Rangers.

There’s a few factors that add some context to this beyond Rangers simply not being in the same division for a period of time. To say Rangers demotion to the third division was based upon David Murray and his mismanagement would be correct. However, to say it all played out the way it did because of Murray’s mismanagement or because it had to be that way is not correct.

Things happened. Whyte got in – was allowed in/placed in and the however and whoever helped it happen is up for debate. One thing that sits in focus with hindsight is that Whyte was always going for liquidation. That route never brought him any obvious direct personal gains (another debate) but business wise it left only certain roads open to Rangers.

It also left the club in a state of limbo over the close season with news of liquidation for the holding company in June 2012. And with that event Rangers were parted with their membership to the Premier League. But a route existed for Rangers, with a different company set-up, to retain Premier League status. We know this because a vote took place to consider that transfer. A vote for Rangers to remain (be kept in) or be expelled (and with it demoted). The transfer of holding companies, memberships, goodwill etc is possible because it’s an admin task and it happens regularly in football without fuss, whether based in liquidation events or not.

It reads as strange now as it did then but what kind of governing body puts the fate of a member club in the hands of its rivals? Especially amid a deeply toxic atmosphere created as a direct result of a campaign that had been led by a select media few, who were repeating their lines verbatim from RangersTaxCase blog (essentially an anti-Rangers group of Celtic fans). Unsurprisingly, given the scale and volume of the lobbying, the clubs of the SPL voted to not retain Rangers’ Premier League status. In many cases that was against the financial best interests of individual clubs. Amongst this rabble, Celtic chose to vote not to retain Rangers, a vote to remove their main competition. Of course, with this, there was also a forfeit of bragging rights and claims of consequence titles, against Rangers, until our return in any case. Through the whole charade Celtic, the club and their associates, had no qualms at all being judge, jury and executioner on tax efficiency schemes in sport, we’ll get back to that.

What happened next perhaps requires some introspection from Rangers. Rangers were then voted (by the remaining clubs in Scottish football) to be allowed to enter the Scottish Football League and the talk was of allowing entry at Division 1 level. This was to try to minimise any financial damage to the clubs of the Premier League (salvage TV and sponsorship deals) despite some having just voted themselves onto the Christmas menu. Rangers were appalled at this gerrymandering and then opted for an arguably equally short-sighted response although based in good intentions.

A demotion of four divisions to Division 3 was an unnecessarily harsh punishment and unprecedented (Juventus only took a one division punishment for actual match-fixing). The question of resuming in Division 1 or at the bottom in Division 3 is a contentious one. The reasons of clearing our name, clearing our collective conscious and resetting any “wrong-doing” were sound and just, but would also appear to have been honest to a fault. And naïve to a fault, in many ways. The media that stitched the club up so badly in preceding years was never going to be trusted to properly chart the remarkable return through the divisions or sell any absolution narrative. The rival fans that revelled in (and actively drove) the clubs fall from grace were never going admit any slate was cleared upon Rangers return. And whether Rangers remained in the SPL, started in Division 1 or threw-in with the amateur teams the debt would never be enough. So why even pretend they would? And as a fan, then as now, I felt the charges were grossly overstated and the punishment excessive, so the self-flagellation seemed like overkill and reactionary.

If your detractors hate you and are determined to paint you as the bad guy then it doesn’t matter what you do. Honesty and decency is only good for your own piece of mind. In Scottish football and across the real world it often counts for nothing. Less than nothing, if there’s something at stake and someone prepare to take what you submit. Take the example of the disgraced, but still servicing, Glasgow Councillor Susan Aitken. She should’ve resigned long before now and would’ve had she been an honest politician. The truth is the dishonourable objectives of the likes of Aitken can only be completed through ignoring rules and then brazenly carrying on. It helps to understand that mindset.

Back in 2012 and Celtic had what they wanted. Their rivals out the picture for a few seasons. A procession to some cheapened titles. Many free shots at the real prize, the Champions League, and the money and prestige that holds. In 2019, we now witness Celtic full on deflection and denial mode for their past indiscretions. An initial chatter amongst their support that their club should at least say something has been replaced by a wall of silence, an understanding that the club has chosen ignore decency and brazen its way through it. And that their support will keep on message.  Admit nothing, concede nothing. The only club in world football with no boys club. It begs the question that should Celtics past actions ever result in Scottish football doing some soul-searching and self-correction do we ever think they would put their hands up and step down a division or four as atonement? Do we think Chris McLaughlin and the BBC would expend the time and energy making those demands, that they did demanding contrition from a bruised and damaged Rangers? I think we know the answer. Like Aitken, Celtics objectives are clear, win at any costs, as they’re not here to do the right thing. But unfortunately, no one is in place to hold them to account either.

What I will say is that with the way Rangers had been carved up and controlled under Charles Green then perhaps our actual location wouldn’t have mattered for those years. Had we remained in the SPL then it would’ve been in body only. It rings true that McCoist and co. realised this when the Division 3 call was made and the then owners didn’t deserve the leverage that Premier League status would afford. The subsequent boards proved that – equal measures of corporate looting and deliberate vandalism with an eye to a game of brinkmanship daring any would-be responsible owners to step up and pay up. At that time, we were so obviously fucked that Celtic could’ve even voted to retain us in the Premier League and maybe even keep a moral claim to 10 in a row. But they never, did they.

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