One year on
February 14th marks the 12-month anniversary of Rangers going into administration - the trigger that incurred their spectacular fall from grace. Rachel Griffiths looks at the club a year on, and where they might go from here.
By Rachel Griffiths - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsRachG
Last Updated: 14/02/13 11:20am
A year ago, few could have predicted that 12 months down the line Rangers Football Club would find themselves plying their trade in the fourth tier of Scottish Football after a well-documented fall from grace.
On February 14th 2012, Rangers shocked supporters with the announcement the club had been forced into administration by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over non-payment of tax.
That bombshell triggered a domino-effect chain of events as things at Ibrox quickly spiralled.
First was the instant deduction of 10 points by the Scottish Premier League which struck a huge blow to the club's title challenge for the season.
Then, as it emerged over the following days and weeks that the club had run up huge debts under the ownership of the now-disgraced Craig Whyte, including around £14million of unpaid tax, the dark cloud over the Glasgow club continued to grow.
In April it was suggested that the club's total debts could top £134m and by June, under the new ownership of Charles Green's Sevco consortium following a takeover, Gers saw their offer of a Company Voluntary Arrangement rejected by HMRC and the oldco Rangers was consigned to liquidation.
Refused permission to join the Scottish Premier League after the clubs voted overwhelmingly against it, the newco Rangers began life in the third division of Scottish Football this season after another vote by the Scottish Football Association as to where they should be placed.
Six months into their fourth-tier campaign, and Rangers' future remains unclear.
A major hindrance at this point is the transfer embargo which will run until September 1st, imposed as part of the package of sanctions handed to the club by the SFA. With Rangers' start to life as a newco came the departure of a raft of key players from their SPL glory days. With his hands tied in terms of new signings, manager Ally McCoist has been forced to start the rebuilding process with limited means.
The club are allowed to speak to long-term targets ahead of that embargo being lifted but, although Rangers continue to play at home in front of crowds nearing 50,000, McCoist has admitted playing in the Scottish third division is making it difficult to attract potential signings.
Speaking earlier this month, the Ibrox boss said: "I have to tell you it's extremely difficult - harder than I thought it would be.
"There are some players who just aren't interested at all. The only reason they're looking is because of the name. The name of Rangers used to command interest. It's only now because of the name of Rangers that it is commanding any interest because of where we are at this moment in time."
Even without fresh signings, the new-look squad McCoist hastily patched up in the summer is managing to make its mark in the third division as Rangers work towards their long-term aim of reclaiming their top-flight status. The club currently sit 22 points clear at the top of the table after winning 17 of their 23 games this season, losing one and drawing five.
But despite that runaway lead, the recent 3-0 Scottish Cup defeat at Dundee United highlighted the gulf which still needs to be bridged as Rangers look to climb the leagues, with the gap in quality between McCoist's men and their top-flight opposition all too apparent.
Another uncertain factor in Rangers' future is McCoist himself. A legend in the hearts of many Gers' fans, the boss has been widely praised for his dedication and loyalty to the club during what the boss himself admits has been a "horrendous" year at Ibrox. However, the loss to United has reignited questions over whether he is the right manager to front Rangers' attempted resurgence to the summit of Scottish football, with the heat growing on the manager following elimination from a seventh successive cup competition.
While there are plenty of questions to be asked over the future of Rangers' on-field exploits and where they lie, things behind the scenes also appear up in the air, particularly where finances are concerned.
There was welcome good news for the club back in December when it was announced a total of £22.2m had been raised from its listing on the stock exchange, including a fan contribution of around £5m. Owner Green spoke at the time of his intention to pump that cash into the rebuilding of the team, saying: "This is definitely the springboard for the rebirth of Rangers. When we are allowed to go into the market, this club will take the right players and take the right action."
But just when Gers appeared to be on safer financial footing, there emerged a new cash row only last week over claims the club owes £400,000 to a company based in Singapore, Orlit Enterprises. Rangers confirmed the dispute and said a deal had been agreed with the company over an "insignificant" debt, denying any threat to the club. However, with reports suggesting the company behind Rangers faces the prospect of a winding-up order over the disputed bill, the reports have done little for the club's already stained reputation.
There is also the ongoing dispute with the tax man. Rangers won a First Tier Tax Tribunal back in November, with the verdict ruling in favour of the club's use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs), but HMRC has lodged an appeal against that ruling and it appears the row could rumble on.
In addition, they are awaiting the verdict of an investigation into EBT payments by an SPL-appointed panel and, if found guilty, face the prospect of being stripped of their five league titles won between 2000 and 2011.
Despite the seemingly unending barrage of obstacles in Rangers' path, the higher powers at the club have largely maintained a positive outlook on their future; one that focuses on rebuilding from a fresh start and reclaiming their former status. Their plight has been boosted by the loyalty of the club's fans, with the aforementioned average home attendance figures of close to 50,000 underlining that support still burns strongly on the blue and white side of Glasgow.
But even if Rangers earn promotion this season, it remains to be seen what that will mean for the club as plans for a 12-12-18 restructuring of the leagues garner support. Green has made his opposition to that proposed reshuffle clear, suggesting Gers would be better off leaving Scottish football. With speculation still circling that the club could move south of the border to the English non-league Blue Square Premier, there are more questions than ever over where Rangers will be playing next year.
This week, on the anniversary of the club going into administration, Rangers TV will air a documentary entitled "The Rising: Rangers one year on from administration", charting the turbulent events at the club over the last 12 months.
While the suggestion Rangers have 'risen' is a debatable one as the repercussions of their financial misconducts continue to roll over the club, there is a sense of new beginnings at the newco outfit, but where those beginnings will take them remains to be seen.
Uncertainty continues to cloud Ibrox but those associated with the club can take the small comfort that this Valentine's Day should, at least, be a little sweeter than the last.
To read more about how Rangers are getting on one year on from administration visit the club's official website here