With the July 4 vote for Scottish Premier League teams a formality, since more than four have indicated that they will reject the newco's application to receive a league share, the Ibrox club will be forced to start in the SFL. The question remains, though, in which tier will they be accommodated?
Talks, brokered by the Scottish Football Association, have been ongoing, but the details are now well established. Rangers could be relegated to the first division or moved to the third division. For SFL clubs, there is the choice between alienating some supporters who wish to see Rangers punished to the extreme and the opportunity to restructure the league – merging the SPL with the SFL – gaining play-off places into the top-flight and generating more money for each member club.
The SFL board sent out a document yesterday to all member clubs – which was published on the STV Sport website – outlining the five possible fates for Rangers: staying in the SPL, going to the first division, going to the third division, being accommodated in a newly-created SPL2, or being expelled or suspended from the game. The latter option is considered "complete financial meltdown" and prompts the question, "the game survives, but where?"
The carrot for SFL clubs is a greater say in the running of the game, a fairer distribution of the wealth generated, a pyramid system, more play-offs, and a larger annual settlement agreement payment. The stick, though, is the threat that the SPL will invite nine clubs to join Rangers in the SPL2, however this is not supported by the SFA. The two most likely scenarios are Rangers ending up in the first or third divisions. The latter is estimated in the document to cost Scottish football £16m, with commercial partners walking away and seeking compensation, and the opportunity to restructure the game being lost.
The first division scenario would reduce the SPL's income by 30%, but this is considered the least damaging financial consequence, and one that all clubs could recover from. However, the SFL clubs would need to vote in favour of Rangers being accommodated in the first division. So far, Falkirk, Morton and Raith Rovers have expressed their opposition, while Cowdenbeath would vote in favour. The majority required for material changes to the SFL is 75%, or 23 clubs, however there is essentially a blank slate when it comes to the scenario of moving Rangers into the first division from the top flight.
In return for playing in the first division rather than the third, Rangers would have to accept any sanctions imposed due to rules broken by the oldco, while a condition of being granted SFA membership is paying all football debts – such as the £800,000 due to Hearts for the transfer of Lee Wallace – and waiving the rights of a legal challenge. If agreement is reached, the SPL and SFL would merge in the 2014/15 season, but play-offs to the top flight would be introduced for next season, while TV rights for Rangers matches in the first division would be bought by the SPL for £1m.
However, it is not clear whether Dundee, who finished second in the first division last season, would be promoted to the SPL in place of Rangers, or Dunfermline Athletic would have their relegation revoked. The situation will become clearer after the SFL clubs meet at an emergency meeting on Tuesday, then the SPL clubs the following day. The Dundee chief executive Scott Gardiner has described the wait as "intolerable", though.
"Time is running out and the season is looming large for us," Gardiner said. "This is beginning to impact on the running of our football club. My understanding of the rules is that if there's a nominated club that must be done before 10 July – and the first and only time a new SPL team can be ratified is 16 July. Can you imagine the turmoil which would ensue if there is a change?"
Jim Jefferies, the Dunfermline manager, was similarly irked by the uncertainty, and described the current situation in Scottish football as "ludicrous". The Fife club believe that an SPL vote will decide their fate.
"Everything has been put on hold until we find out in which division we will be playing our football," Jefferies said. "The Rangers situation has caught everybody out and nobody has really taken the bull by the horns and gone and sorted it out quickly enough."