The Conference League clubs will hold a pre-arranged, mid-season meeting next week and some of them are interested and even supportive of Rangers' potentially applying to join them. Rangers' ultimate aim would be to work their way up from the Conference and through the Football League to the Barclays Premier League. But that prospect seemed improbable when Clarke spoke negatively about the idea yesterday.
"I have a lot of respect for Scottish football," he said in an interview on Talksport. "I grew up in a generation when Scotland won European Cups and with Scottish teams and qualified for World Cups. So the thought of undermining Scottish football by stealing their best clubs and undermining the financial model which supports the professional game across many clubs . . . Scotland deserves better than that."
Clarke said the Conference does not have the authority to invite Rangers, Celtic or any other club into its league without approval from the game's ultimate governing bodies.
“I think that if there was a serious move to bring a major Scottish club into English football, that would be under the purview of the FA as the national governing body and would require discussion with UEFA and Fifa. So I don’t think the Conference would be able to invite them in. I don’t think the Football League would ever invite them in without a major conversation.
“I think that discussion would have to take place at the highest levels of English football and European football before such a big decision could be taken.”
Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, said it was “interesting” to hear some clubs were receptive to the Ibrox club’s ambition, but admitted they would remain in Scottish football for the foreseeable future. “The Conference clubs are having a meeting next week and we would be on the agenda. We’ll need to wait and see how that goes.
“It will certainly not be next year or the year after. But we are, hopefully, preparing ourselves to adapt to any change. Our immediate target is to get back to the top of Scottish football, to continue to grow as a club and to be involved in the growth of Scottish football.”
Meanwhile, McCoist praised the Rangers support as the club announced it has now sold 38,014 season-tickets, more than in either of the last two SPL campaigns.
“I think everyone asked the question: ‘would the fans continue turning out?’ But in the last couple of Saturdays, right after the new year when money is at an all-time low for many families, the attendances have been staggering,” he said. “They’re still coming, showing incredible loyalty and support. We always hoped that would be the case – and we’re absolutely delighted with it.”