Rangers to play in Scottish Third Division

On Friday, July 13, the Scottish Football League (SFL) voted Glasgow Rangers into the Third Division, which is the lowest tier in Scotland’s soccer pyramid. It now appears that the earliest we could see Rangers playing first division soccer again would be the 2015-2016 season.

Rangers are being forced to play in third division after being liquidated and purchased by a consortium led by Charles Green, who formed a new company to replace the original club. Most newcos are expected to begin at the lowest tier of the SFL and move their way up. Rangers attempted to bypass those rules and applied to re-join the Scottish Premier League, which was turned down by a majority of the clubs in the league.

The problem is that the absence of Rangers from Scotland’s top league means millions of dollars in lost revenue. Now that the team has been dropped to the country’s lowest tier, it will be at least three years before the Scottish Football Association (SFA) regains that income.

That’s why the SFL’s decision to place Rangers in Scotland’s lowest tier is foolish. I understand the need for the 30 clubs in the SFL to punish Rangers for their sins, but the missing television revenue is going to severely damage the sport in Scotland. I find it mind-boggling that 25 out of 30 clubs in the SFL voted in favor of placing Rangers into the bottom tier despite knowing how much money it was going to cost the sport.

SFL President Stewart Regan tried to put a positive spin on this development by emphasizing that Rangers’ relegation gives the league a chance to change the game for the better:

“Today is a watershed for Scottish football. There will, undoubtedly, be financial consequences on the horizon,” Regan said. “Nonetheless, with togetherness, an open mind, and innovative thinking, there can also be opportunity: opportunity to restructure the game and promote competitiveness, to place greater emphasis on development of young Scottish talent and to support the financial sustainability of clubs through the Financial Fair Play model.”

The problem is that Rangers’ existence in the SPL helped keep many of the other teams in the league afloat because they brought significant crowds with them for road matches. Furthermore, their rivalry with Celtic was critical to the league’s television contracts. Now it will be at least three years before Rangers plays Celtic in a league match. No amount of player development or restructuring within the SFL can replace that.

The SFL made a huge mistake by placing Rangers in the Scottish Third Division. Now the entire SFA will have to pay the price for its foolishness.

Derek Ciapala has followed Rangers and the SPL since childhood. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala or Facebook.