In the 45 days which have passed since Rangers were formally consigned to the third division, few have gone by without supposedly "knowing" chat about cute deals being struck to fast-track them back to the top flight.
Like a favoured prisoner having his sentence slashed, the rumours have it that Rangers will conveniently piggy-back on league reconstruction and be back in the top division in two years at the most, 11 months at the least. Some would have you believe it's unthinkable that they'll be subjected to the drudgery of earning three consecutive promotions.
It's a neat and tidy idea, but it shows no appreciation of the prevailing climate in Scottish football. If there's one thing the "no to newco" episode taught us over this fraught, divisive summer it was that there's a vast body of supporters who are hypersensitive to the idea of anything being done primarily for the benefit of Rangers. And their antennae are still up.
Anything proposed by the SFA, SPL or SFL which is seen to give Rangers a helping hand – even as an indirect consequence – is highly likely to be howled down.
Not that Rangers nor their supporters seem to be actively looking for a leg-up, despite Ally McCoist selling the club to new signing Sebastien Faure by saying they could be back in the SPL in two years. In theory, that is possible, but McCoist has also made it clear that it requires three straight promotions.
"Unless someone tells us otherwise then that's the way we've got to do it," he said. "It would possibly help us if league reconstruction was contemplated and went ahead. But we're certainly planning for the long haul."
There are two reasons why it is hard to see Rangers spending anything less than three years in the lower leagues and climbing through the prevailing system on merit. Firstly, anything which helps them jump one division, let alone two, would be an almost unsellable proposition. If SPL supporters (and eventually their chairmen) couldn't be railroaded into change under the threat of economic meltdown and being abandoned by broadcasters, then a mere reconfiguration of the leagues won't easily appeal to them.
New play-offs, a single governing body, a pyramid system? None of that will wash with those supporters determined to make sure nothing is done to make life any easier at Ibrox.
Secondly, the whispered conspiracy theories about Rangers being catapulted back to the top show no cognisance of one glaringly salient point: why would all the clubs who must vote on change suddenly rush towards consensus when they've been spectacularly incapable of doing so for years?
It was only last year that talks among the dozen top-flight clubs about how many there should be in the SPL – 10, 14, 16 or the current 12 – became so hopelessly bogged down and inconclusive that they petered out altogether. Why, then, would chairmen suddenly be able to reach agreement on exactly the same issue? Especially when they are more aware than ever that they will be held to account by supporters watching their every move like hawks, suspicious of their motives and ready to mobilise against anything they dislike.
The SFA is to establish a committee – under an independent chairman – to make recommendations on the preferred structure. First the SPL will have a strategy day within the next six weeks to decide what it wants and the SFL will have to do similar. Eventually, and this will either take months and months or not happen at all, the whole lot of them will either commit to a change or else muddle along with the status quo.
Rangers' downfall changes things and it does create opportunities. Clubs would never previously have contemplated a 16-team league because Sky was handcuffed to four Old Firm games per season, which isn't feasible for any division bigger than 14. A league of 16 and a 30-game season would create freshness and reduce the crippling monotony of clubs meeting four times in a campaign. The idea has some support among the SPL clubs . . . but then so does 14, 12 and 10. There is no prevailing agenda. Right now, there isn't even a rush to remove the infamous 11-1 voting majority requirement.
The irony of all this is that the SFA and SPL, in particular, are on a hiding to nothing. Any change they commit to will be regarded with the deepest suspicion. But if they do nothing they will be accused – correctly – of being urgent and frantic about league reconstruction when it could have resulted in Rangers landing softly in the first division, only to drop it once that idea was booted out by the SFL clubs.
The whole thing is an intractable knot, but the idea of it being secretly unravelled just to wave Rangers back into the top flight is risible.
And Another Thing-
So Arif Naqvi has 18% of Rangers, Craig Mather has 10%, Imran Ahmad and Richard Hughes both have 9%, and Mike Ashley should soon have 9%, too. That's 55% of the total shareholding. A few smaller investors are also known.
But the news that Ally McCoist owns 4.5%, worth close to £500,000, is more intriguing than any of that. The Rangers manager now has not only his emotional connection with the club but also – and this is a different matter entirely – a binding, financial one with the men who run it. There's no longer a "them and us" when it comes to Charles Green's people and the manager.
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