I note a recurring theme in the argument against awarding stripped titles to the runner-up is fear of the consequences.
It was fear of the consequences of standing up to wrongdoing that got Scottish football into this almighty mess in the first place.
There is no question in my mind that if Rangers are found to have been fielding ineligible players, the results of their matches should be corrected to read as 0-3 defeats, in accordance with the rules. Consequently the final league standings in each of the seasons to which this applies should also be corrected to reveal who the true champions were, according to the rules.
This could scarcely be simpler.
Once the appropriate corrections have been made, the separate matter of what punishment should be meted out to the offending parties can finally be addressed.
I argue that nothing short of expulsion is appropriate. We are dealing with unprecedented levels of rule-breaking, probably in collusion with administrators at Hampden Park, incalculable damage to the reputation and development of Scottish football and, even now, chaos and turmoil which is destabilising the entire structure of the game.
But fear of the consequences appears to have induced a paralysis which is preventing the correct response from even being recognised, never mind being enacted.
A club which has been found guilty of consistently fielding ineligible players on a massive scale and, furthermore, actively concealed the paperwork which would have exposed the ineligibility is simply not fit to be a member of any organised league. Not is it fit to have SFA membership. Thus the record should clearly show that its punishment is either complete expulsion or a <em>sine die</em> suspension which will not be lifted until satisfactory restitution has been made for the damage suffered by other footballing parties.
If a future club wishes to trade as Rangers FC and portray itself as the continuation of the expelled Rangers FC, it must fulfil certain conditions.
Firstly, it must unequivocally recognise and accept that it is inheriting the culpability of the original Rangers FC for breaking football rules over many successive years.
Secondly, it will never make any claim to titles which have been stripped from it in accordance with the game’s rules nor will it ever dispute or question the justice of awarding those titles to any other club which did compete within the rules.
Thirdly, in recognition of the financial damage which original Rangers caused to its peers in the Scottish game, the new club which elects to trade as Rangers FC will forfeit a percentage of its future earnings and prize money for a period of time and at a level which is acceptable to all the clubs which it is found to have disadvantaged. If they can’t compete at the top level with what’s left in the coffers, too bad. Those are the consequences of cheating your way to glory.
Finally, if – and only if – these conditions are satisfied, then everyone else in Scottish football can agree to accept the new club as a continuation of the old Rangers, albeit with a break in its history from the time to which the suspension is backdated up until it resumes trading as a suitably penitent and chastised member club. It could then legitimately include its forty-odd titles in its honours roll while acknowledging a period of misconduct which is a stain on its history but which it also apologises for, condemns and undertakes never to repeat.
The consequences for Scottish football in this scenario would be that a line could finally be drawn under the entire episode. Honour would be restored all around and a fresh start would finally be possible.
I’m not holding my breath.
Rangers haven’t even begun to taste proper punishment.
At least ten years of cheating cannot be atoned for by anything less than expulsion. I, like tens of thousands of other Scottish football supporters, spent years paying to see what was advertised as a sporting competition but was in reality a fix. Looking only at ten years of buying two season tickets in the first decade of this century and ignoring for the moment the likelihood of previous fraudulent activities perpetrated by the same Rangers organisation, I personally have been defrauded to the tune of well over £12,000.
I am by no means alone or even exceptional in that respect. Many, many others have been cheated.
Taking Celtic alone (but also recognising that supporters of every other club were cheated, particularly the supporters of every SPL club which suffered the relegation which should, by rights, have been the fate of the club which lost every match 0-3) and looking only at the seasons in which Celtic were cheated into 2nd place instead of 1st — that gives us five seasons. 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Hugely simplifying the numbers to a low-end, estimated annual average of ~40,000 tickets @ c.£500 each, we get a ball park figure of £20,000,000 worth of mis-sold tickets.
Twenty million pounds minimum.
Without counting millions of pounds of extra prize money.
Without counting millions of pounds of extra revenues from Europe.
Without counting enhanced reputation and consequent sponsorship potential worth millions of pounds.
Without counting potential for merchandising based on 12 In A Row and related achievements.
Twenty million pounds is the tip of the iceberg of the damage and disruption for which RFC were responsible.
Not to mention that tens of millions of pounds more would have been paid into the national tax coffers if Celtic and other clubs had been receiving the prize money which was due to them.
Yet we are currently hearing Rangers apologists telling us that Rangers “have already been punished heavily” or even, “have already been punished enough!” A fine of £200,000 for doing at least £20,000,000 worth of damage to a single set of supporters? A three year exclusion from Europe as a punishment for ten years of European participation? A ten point deduction after stealing five championship titles?
Proper punishment hasn’t even come into the frame yet.