Rangers are rapidly running out of money, options and time . . .
The default illustration has been a photograph of the blue, wrought iron Ibrox gates. Those pictures can look dramatic, but Rangers are inching inexorably towards a far more alarming image: a padlock on the front door. Ibrox closed.
What happens to a club when it's in administration, it can't find a buyer, and the money will run out in just 22 days' time? It staggers on until it closes down. Rangers' worst-case scenario has been redrawn time and time again over the past few weeks but another line in the sand was crossed last night. Right now, and notwithstanding this story's endless capacity for twists and turns (most of them bad from Rangers' point of view) who is going to save the club from full liquidation?
The news that Bill Miller was the latest timewaster in Rangers' prolonged suicide note meant Duff & Phelps are hardly any closer to finding a buyer today than they were on February 14, when they were appointed as administrators. When administrators cannot find a buyer and they run out of time, they call in liquidators. The assets are sold, which in this case means Ibrox, Murray Park and the players. Maybe a property developer would buy the land although none would dare do anything with it for fear of incurring the wrath of the Rangers support. Then what? Fans or anyone else could form a club and rent the stadium and training ground, and start again. But it's the bleakest scenario of all. Ground zero stuff. It could mean Rangers not playing at all next season.
Duff & Phelps' claim that "three other bidders" had come forward since last Thursday - and now have now have every opportunity to "complete the purchase of the club prior to the end of the season" - was risible. Didn't we hear all of this around six weeks ago, when Germans, other Americans and a UK consortium were supposedly checking their wallets before melting away? They must take Rangers supporters for mugs if they are trying to peddle the line that a club that hasn't been able to find a suitable buyer for weeks and weeks suddenly has a wee queue of them now that it's closer than ever to death's door. Oh, and the end of the season is on Sunday.
Miller never set foot in Scotland during all of this – the uncertainty over whether he owns a passport is academic now – but the statement which formally removed him from Rangers was both chilling and comical. Essentially he accused Duff & Phelps of massaging the figures and trying to sell him a pup. The outline information he had on the club had been "limited" to what he saw in the administrators' internet data room and from the answers he got from Paul Clark, David Whitehouse and other Duff & Phelps staff. But once his own people got a foot in the door and could access the books properly it became clear that the information and analysis he'd been fed was "more optimistic than reality". The Blue Knights have had similar private complaints about a £5m discrepancy in the projections, believing that Duff & Phelps painted a rosier picture of the next two or three years than could ever be the case.
The comedy, albeit joyless black humour, was Miller claiming to have scarpered because the Rangers supporters had been nasty to him. He had pulled out "after hearing the message from Rangers supporters and fans loud and clear ('Yank go home!')". That was a pathetic smokescreen from a hardened businessman and, as we've been told, Vietnam veteran. Miller was a code-breaker in the military yet appeared to have missed the swift and dramatic thawing of the Rangers support towards him last week when it was stressed to them that it could be him or no-one. When Sandy Jardine appealed for both Miller and The Blue Knights' bids to be respected and welcomed, because either might prove to be Rangers' salvation, there was applause from the Ibrox crowd. That was a far more profound statement from the fans than a few allegedly abusive emails or a couple of "yank go home" banners at last week's Dundee United game. Those banners were tiny but Miller hid behind them to make his escape.
His bid had been "substantially" better than anything else on the table, Duff & Phelps told us last week. The administrators have a major credibility problem now but that's the least of it all. Brian Kennedy has said all along that he would rescue Rangers if no-one else could but last night it was being suggested that even he felt they may have reached the point of no return. The Blue Knights are all heart but the administrators claim they've fallen well short of coming up with the readies to deliver a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). There's no shame in that: it would cost £10m for a realistic CVA offer and the projections are then for £10m, £5m and £5m losses in the three years without European football (once reduced costs but also reduced season-ticket income is factored in). That's £30m for three years of precious little beyond survival. More to the point The Knights cannot deliver Craig Whyte's shares, which is a prerequisite of a CVA.
The story moves at the pace of a fast-flowing, dangerous river and it's hurtling Rangers towards the brink. In a matter of minutes yesterday the furore about the SPL tearing itself apart over what to do with a newco was entirely replaced by the prospect of having no application to consider. But potentially the economic devastation of no Rangers either, which would mean Sky and ESPN seeking renegotiation on their television deal, millions being wiped off the other clubs' collective income, and potentially others falling into administration too.
But Rangers are leading the way to the abysss. After having their fingers burned by Miller they might wish to hang a "no timewasters please" sign on the front door of Ibrox, but then would it even apply to anyone? This crisis is running away with Rangers. They are rapidly running out of money, options-and time.