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Sky forever in on the act

Published on 19 June 2012

'There are no second acts in American life,' F Scott Fitzgerald once wrote with an element of regret.

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It is a pity, then, he could not have experienced the Govan imbroglio where there are as many acts as there are in the canon of Shakespearean plays. Act follows act, feeding a voracious audience who cannot get enough of mishap, skulduggery, duplicity and treachery. Then there's the soliloquising from Charles Green – fit for the ramparts of Elsinore – and that's on a good day.

Forgive me. The head is spinning. To try to encapsulate the feelings on this matter, which moves chimera-like from one shape to the other, one owner to another possible owner within hours or days or weeks without having the slightest idea where it is all going to end up, is like being asked to divine for water in the Sahara. Let's consider the certainties.

It is certain Rangers will fight to remain in the Scottish Premier League. It is equally certain that they will face bitter opposition . That opposition, though, it seems to me, is not a united phalanx singing from the same hymn sheet. Listening to a pundit on Channel 4 recently denouncing Rangers with a venom you would have associated with the pastor sentencing the witches of Salem to eternal damnation, it suggests that, under the banner of "sporting integrity", as in any popular uprising, there marches a diverse army.

The Corinthian ideal is supposedly up front. Behind this, though, are the storm-troopers who, like some disbelievers in the Australian public over the dingo/baby case even 40 years hence ,will steadfastly not believe a single word coming out of Ibrox and still lust for their demise. Nothing else will suffice. No compromise. Out with them.

That extreme view has been strengthened by the Rangers supporters themselves who, taking to the streets and marching to Hampden to take on the Scottish Football Association instead of travelling along the M8 to smoke out Sir David Murray – who, out of character, seems to have learned the value of silence – only hardened the views of their detractors. It did demonstrate that, while there is much to be said for people power, it does require a rationale, a coherence, an awareness of real facts, to have a lasting impact; it is needed on both sides of the perilous divide.

For now we have a kind of Tea Party counter-movement round the country which is threatening reprisals on various chairmen, although to be fair to them they have stopped short of becoming "birthers" to claim that Walter Smith was not really born in Carmyle.

But give them time. They mean business, and whoever is now going to represent the newco ought to realise that. Then there are some coming in at an oblique angle while still wishing to lacerate Rangers but suggesting possible ways out of the impasse; one such was Andrew Lapping's overture to Herald Sport about using a change in the voting structure because of the newco's vulnerability.

I have sympathy with Lapping's argument, about spreading the wealth more evenly, just as I had sympathy for Motherwell back in season 1985/86 when they faced relegation and financial disaster. Along with others in the media, I campaigned for them, by stressing the need to examine a franchise approach to Scottish football; to assess the attributes of stadia, crowd-potential, and geographical situation.

The league was reconstructed, Motherwell were saved and the two clubs who backed them to the hilt were Rangers and Celtic. I know some with existing connections with that club who have not forgotten that. Nor should we forget that other reality: the patiently-hovering presence of Sky and an unsigned contract. As I understand it, it is lying there with the hardly surprising condition that both Celtic and Rangers be in the same league or else no deal.

It is here we come across another element in the battalions of protest. They wish to portray Sky as some unethical intruder who would compromise the sporting integrity principle by the use of the cheque book. In the best of all possible worlds, as I have already stated in the past on these pages, I would not want our game to be the hod-carrier for television, carrying kick-off times to odd spots in the schedules. But there isn't a country in the world now where that doesn't happen.

In an age where I sat and watched part of the Greece-Russia game on someone else's Iphone this week, it underscored for me the rapidly changing communications market which Scottish football has to exploit, not shun, despite any accusation that they are selling out their principles.

So, those who are thinking of playing hard-ball with Sky, or others, where is your alternative business plan? From where are you going to spirit up the revenue, if it is not down the obvious route?

One way or the other, the SPL has to come up with a scheme which is not just about their continuing existence, but which will generate growth and prosperity to counter the burgeoning wealth in the south and the import of their television pictures which will soon swamp the airwaves here.

It is a tall order. Everybody knows that, even those who would espouse penury before accepting Rangers. The fragility of such an arrangement is obvious. If they can persuade Sky to carry on as before without the Old Firm contests, then I suspect they could sell them property in a place called Darien.

If, however, there were neither television coverage, nor a weakened highlights arrangement, but it was all consistent with the rearing of home talent, with the emphasis on youth, the disappearance of the untalented mercenaries and the myriad 'loan' players would be cause for rejoicing. It would get my wholehearted support. But I await this possible template for prosperity with considerable scepticism.

At the heart of it all still lies the proscenium arch of Ibrox where undoubtedly, tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, there will be another curtain raised on yet another act.

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