In a vote of the Scottish Football League’s 30 clubs in Glasgow on Friday, it was decided that Rangers would begin the 2012-13 season in the Scottish Football League Third Division, the fourth tier of Scottish soccer. Rangers are Scotland’s most successful club, with 54 league titles, including three of the last four.
Financial troubles are the reason why Rangers will have to start at the very bottom of the Scottish league system. In May 2011, the club was sold by owner David Murray to businessman Craig Whyte for just £1 due to the club’s outstanding debt.
The club’s debts continued to mount, however, and a missed tax payment in February forced it to enter bankruptcy. In June, the club entered liquidation, with most of its assets being sold to Englishman Charles Green. Since the old Rangers ceased to officially exist, Green formed a new club and had to reapply to the Scottish Premier League, Rangers’ old league.
The SPL rejected the new Rangers’ membership, resulting in the team’s application to the Scottish Football League, which is in charge of the second through fourth tiers of Scottish soccer.
Imagine the New York Yankees playing in towns like Frederick, Md., Port Charlotte, Fla., and Adelanto, Calif., and you get an idea of how big a drop-off this is for a club of Rangers’ stature. Rangers’ average attendance last season was 46,324. Elgin City led the Third Division in attendance last season with 628 fans per game.
Italian giants Juventus underwent a similar situation in 2006, as the club was banished to Italian soccer’s second division, Serie B, following a match-fixing scandal. But Juventus won promotion the following season and was quickly back in Serie A. The team won the Italian championship this season while finishing with an undefeated record.
Assuming Rangers earns promotion in every season beginning in 2012-13, the earliest they can return to the SPL would be 2015.