What's billed as a discussion and votes about "financial fair play" basically amounts to establishing the guidelines for crisis management. It's about what to do the next time a club goes into administration and what to do if one of them goes out of business altogether and attempts to come back as a "newco".
Predictably, the whole thing has been perceived as a "what do we do about Rangers?" meeting when, in fact, everyone who votes will be far more worried about themselves. All sorts of internal tussles and crises of conscience have been going on in the heads of club owners and chairmen. On one hand, they have figures proving the value of Rangers' huge fan base to their club, and, on the other, they have their own supporters' hyper-sensitive to any suggestion that the Ibrox club will be treated more leniently than anyone else.
Ally McCoist thinks they should be. The Rangers manager sees his club as a "special case" and says the same applies to Celtic. It's a view reliant on the fact that their box- office appeal maintains every top-flight club at its current level of operation, and, by extension, there would be job losses and a general deterioration in player quality across the league without them.
That's true enough, but what McCoist cannot answer – because there is no answer to this – is how any league can have integrity or credibility if it contains "special cases" to be treated more leniently than others if it break the rules. That might make economic sense, but it is fundamentally wrong and indefensible as a principle in organised competitive sport. Rangers fans talk of boycotts, but how many others would turn their backs on Scottish football if they were convinced decisions were rigged to preserve the status quo?
Rangers and the Scottish football authorities are going to be crashing into each other like dodgems in the near future. The club has been quick to embrace a sense of victimhood about "how many times" it has been punished, but the authorities cannot bow to that. Rangers broke SPL rules and were docked 10 points for going into administration, the same as anyone else would be. They broke SFA rules and were punished by a £160,000 fine and a year-long transfer embargo, both of which may be reduced on appeal.
It would seem a more appropriate SFA penalty if they were banned from signing anyone until they have cleared all their debts to Scottish clubs – notably the £800,000 soon due to Hearts for Lee Wallace – but the idea that they have already been excessively punished is baseless. Being in administration, being crippled by a mountain of debt, struggling to find a buyer, and failing to meet the criteria to play in Europe next season are down to Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte, not the SFA or SPL.
Big decisions, big verdicts, have to be made on Rangers. The SFA must decide on their appeal against the transfer ban, the SPL clubs must vote on accepting a "newco" Rangers if one is created and applies to join the top flight this summer, and both the SPL and SFA must decide on what punishments to impose on the club if a probe finds it guilty of making payments to players (via Employee Benefit Trusts). All that can be hoped for is fairness. Rangers should not be treated more leniently or more harshly than any other club.
Today's votes should not be seen as something "aimed at Rangers". Right now, any club is docked 10 points during each season in which it finds itself in administration. There is a proposal to increase the punishment to a deduction of either 15 points or one-third of the club's final points total from the previous season. An 8-4 majority would carry that and no-one is certain how the vote will go.
Then there is the resolution which would set the terms of entry for any "newco" SPL club. The proposal is that they would face a deduction of 10 points for their first two seasons or a 75% reduction in SPL monies for their first three. Going to 10 points may be accepted – it would need an 8-4 majority – but there is next to no chance of any 75% cut being imposed. That would require an 11-1 majority. It goes back to that big worry going through the chairmen's heads: "next time, this could be us".
In general, there is a feeling clubs have calmed down since the shock, emotion and anger of February 14, when Rangers appointed Duff & Phelps as administrators. Celtic, Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle have all been owed ticket money, and Hearts expect to be the biggest "victims" over that Wallace money, due in June but unlikely to be paid in full. Even so, there isn't likely to be any revenge in the decisions taken.
The Ibrox support pumps plenty of money into the SPL, but when the Rangers representative sits in the league's boardroom this morning, 45% of the other clubs around the table will have been – or continue to be – out of pocket because of Whyte's mismanagement. Instead of Sandy Jardine's threats of "appropriate action" against individuals clubs perceived to be "detrimental" to Rangers, some apologies would not go amiss.