Sun, Nov 18, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Scottish giants Rangers eye move to English league

AP, LONDON

Scotland’s most successful soccer club is trying to attract potential investors with an eye on someday playing in the English Premier League.

Rangers, the record 54-time Scottish champion, feel less loyalty to their homeland after being forced to start again this season in the fourth tier as punishment for a financial meltdown. Now the Glasgow club’s new ownership believes an exit route from the Scottish leagues is becoming possible as UEFA explores changing cross-border rules.

“The [Scottish Premier League] SPL told us face-to-face, ‘We don’t want you, you aren’t welcome,’” Rangers chief executive Charles Green said in an interview ahead of the club’s planned flotation on a London Stock Exchange market.

A planned revamp of the SPL and three professional divisions below could be Rangers’ chance to escape. The overhaul was announced during the offseason just as Rangers were going into liquidation with tax debts exceeding US$30 million.

“What we understand is that any restructuring will also revisit the taboo,” Green said. “A bit like, ‘Don’t talk about the war to the Germans.’ ‘Don’t mention Rangers and Celtic leaving Scotland.’ It was always ‘Shhh don’t mention that.’”

“I think the taboo of that is going to be lifted ... Scottish football without Rangers and Celtic might actually become more competitive within the remaining clubs rather than having these two monsters sat above them,” he said.

Rangers are due to float on London’s AIM market by the end of the year, and Green has been trying to persuade financial institutions that the club has a realistic chance of playing in the English Premier League.

“As a football club, if Rangers were in the Premier League only Manchester United would be bigger, because Arsenal haven’t got more fans than Rangers ... the fan base is so big,” he said.

However, the barriers to joining the world’s richest soccer league are also vast, with the English Premier League already resisting previous overtures from both Rangers and Glasgow rivals Celtic.

“I don’t believe the Premier League are hostile towards it because I think it’s a generalization,” Green said. “Speak to Manchester United. They are not hostile to Rangers joining.”

However, United disputed Green’s claims.

“We are not in favor of it at all. We are against it,” United spokesman Phil Townsend said. “Our view is it’s the English Premier League and should remain that way.”

Green pointed to the financial advantages of United being able to play at the 50,000-capacity Ibrox.

“Why would Man United want to play Southampton? Why, when they could play Rangers? Sixty percent of the Premier League don’t want Rangers. Of course they don’t want Rangers,” Green said.

“Why would Southampton, Swansea, Wigan, Aston Villa? Why would any of them want Rangers or Celtic in their league. Why would they? he asked. “It threatens their existence ... but if you asked the big clubs, ‘Would you like Rangers?

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