Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association's chief executive, laid bare in no uncertain terms the financial devastation he claimed would await a number of clubs if the Scottish Football League didn't play ball and instead elected to make Rangers begin life at the bottom of the heap in the third division. It was like a motor mechanic looking under the bonnet of a car, sucking in sharply through his teeth before shaking his head and muttering that "it's gonna cost ya".
This doomsday scenario, already alluded to by a number of SPL chairmen earlier in the week, is predicated on the SPL's main sponsors – Sky, ESPN and around 10 others – all walking away or greatly reducing the terms on offer should Rangers be barred from the top flight for a minimum of three seasons.
There has been growing cynicism about such a devastating situation ever arising given none of the SPL's commercial partners have explicitly said as much, but Regan was insistent that this was a very real and credible danger.
"We have had dialogue with the broadcasters, through the SPL, and we understand what the various stakeholders from Sky television, ESPN, Sport Five and a number of their other commercial partners are likely to do in the event Rangers are not in either of the top two tiers," he said. "It's not pretty. That's why we cannot sit back and let that happen without trying to get all parties to realise that this is the only solution which can keep the game afloat."
This act of trying to force a round newco peg into a square first division hole will not prove popular, however; not with many Rangers supporters who would prefer their fledgling club to start afresh in the third division, not with supporters of the other clubs who have threatened to walk away from the game if sporting integrity is not seen to be upheld, and certainly not with many SFL chairmen who have made it clear they are not happy about being railroaded and bullied into making a decision to effectively save the SPL's skin. The SFL board will convene at Hampden this morning and will likely call an emergency meeting of their clubs to be held late next week.
At that point a vote will be taken, with 50% needing to agree to Rangers being parachuted into the first division. Given the number of SFL clubs that have already publicly stated that they would not support such a motion, it would seem the SFA will have to utilise both the stick and the carrot to make sure it goes through.
"There is the moral argument and the fear of a fans' backlash and there are financial implications to consider," Regan insisted. "But when we look at the alternative, it is not possible to think about it without thinking of the game withering on the vine. We cannot contemplate that and the message has to be that division one is the only show in town as far as the future of Scottish football is concerned for Rangers. That has to be the way forward."
Regan, in fact, was almost evangelical in his preaching of the message. There was a call for clubs to look beyond their individual concerns to do what was right for the greater good, although it remains hard to see just how second or third division clubs would benefit from the decision to install Rangers in the first division. "At a time like this, we need to look at the facts. It's time to lift your head up from looking down at the floor and look forward into the future. Think of the implications of not doing this. They are catastrophic for the game. As the governing body, we cannot allow that to happen."
Where does Rangers' departure leave the SPL? A team short, for starters. The identity of Club 12 remains a mystery but will be decided upon at a future date by the other 11 SPL clubs. It seems the vacancy will be either Dunfermline Athletic, relegated at the end of last season, or Dundee, who finished second in the first division, although Neil Doncaster, the SPL's chief executive, would say only that three clubs meet the criteria. The investigation into Rangers' previous use of dual contracts was also, said Doncaster, a matter "for another day".
Rangers' absence also means the Old Firm cartel has finally been broken. It seems likely that one of the first acts next season of the other clubs will be to change the number of votes needed to pass major decisions from 11 to nine, and from there a string of other amendments – on league reconstruction, the distribution of finances etc – will likely follow. Celtic, accustomed to forming an alliance with their Glasgow rivals to protect their position of privilege, will only be able to look on in frustration as that arrangement is inevitably broken up.
What now for Rangers? There was a natural disappointment that their presentation yesterday morning did not sufficiently impress the other SPL chairmen, but swiftly following that came an acceptance that they would play in whichever league they were told to. Stubbornly insisting that they must begin life in the third division would have been a non-starter anyway given the award of SFA membership will only arrive with certain conditions, including possible sanctions. Yesterday's vote was a major step forward in finally settling this long-running saga. All eyes now turn to the SFL to see what happens next.