As an Irishman, a southern Irishman especially, I should be elated at the news that Glasgow Rangers have entered into administration and are now teetering on the brink, financially speaking. As any self-respecting Irishman knows, Rangers are bad. Celtic are good. Bad things happening to Rangers is good. We’re still meant to see Rangers in prehistoric terms as some sort of Orange bastion of protestantism in which no Irish Catholic should be sympathetic towards in the slightest. The religious lines are still drawn every time Rangers play Celtic and wearing a Rangers jersey isn’t simply seen as the innocuous donning of a football kit, it’s a badge of identity with which you display your religious as well as political beliefs. But I can’t help but feel compassion for my Glasgow brothers and sisters at such a difficult time. To so many of us, football offers an escape from the strain of modern life and our club is the vehicle which drives this departure from reality. When this vehicle breaks down, we’re trapped in the real world. And who wants that?
Glasgow Rangers’ falling into administration isn’t exactly a surprise. The financial turmoil at the Ibrox club has been well documented for some time which makes the ordeal all the more agonising for the fans. Amid all the fiscal strife however, Rangers have managed to win the last three SPL titles though that may say more about the substandard SPL than it does about the quality of Rangers. The news still comes as a blow to fans. One fan being interviewed by the BBC on Monday claimed that the administration was a ‘big embarrassment for the club’, another claimed that it was ‘a sad time for Rangers FC’ and one particularly disgruntled fan voiced his abhorrence at the besmirching of ’140 years of history’. The general feeling amongst the fans was that the owner, Craig Whyte, and his predecessors have a lot to answer for. Fans feel particularly aggrieved as the running of their club is out of their hands and in the hands of businessmen who see it as more of a business enterprise rather than a football club. A tool to make money rather than an institution that gives meaning to people’s lives every Saturday.
Rangers’ perilous situation has been greeted with a wry smile and a droll giggle here in Ireland and England as well. I heard one man exclaim sarcasically that ‘It couldn’t happen to a nicer club’. But these pejorative sentiments are extremely narrow-minded. Yes, Rangers have come to symbolise something that many Irish people see as threatening or derogatory towards their heritage but we shouldn’t be in the business of kicking a club when its down. The demise of Rangers is a profusely sad thing. Thousands of Glaswegians and many other Rangers supporters worldwide now don’t know if their once great club can compete. Good, honest, decent people with no delusions of grandeur but simply an innocent love for their football club face a nervy time. A very nervy time as Rangers face an uncertain future. This season is a write-off, what with the 10-point-penalty imposed on Rangers as a result of entering into administration, but many have gone as far to say that Celtic will now dominate the Old-Firm rivalry for years to come such is the financial black hole facing Rangers. Other mutterings, seemingly disingenuous mutterings uttered by overly optimistic Celtic fans methinks, have suggested that Rangers may go into liquidation and cease to exist. This, of course, is very unlikely. One Scottish club did fold as a result of financial difficulties fairly recently though there is a stark contrast between lowly Gretna and the footballing behemoth that is Rangers.
Rangers will never get much love from me. I am inherently programmed to hate their very being. I don’t hate them, but that is merely because I rewired the programming along the way. The SPL delights me not; I have a horribly condescending view of Scottish football but I do always shout for Celtic in the title race and Old Firm derbies. I’ll never wear a Rangers kit and I won’t dance the Fiddler like Gazza but when a club is down and when it is her fans who are suffering most, one cannot help but feel a sliver of empathy….. Ah go on, y’do.