A major institution has been brought to its knees through years of overreach, financial chicanery and wild, hubris-driven casino gambling in pursuit of ever-greater success...
Very large chunks of the company's assets appear to have been (significant cough) "mislaid", and now...
The company is facing imminent downsizing or liquidation, either of which will lead to...
Sacking of most of its low-earning employees and potentially ruinous knock-on effects for their customers, competitors, suppliers and creditors, while...
The already wealthy individuals who bear responsibility for the disaster remain...
This could accurately describe any number of major banks or hedge funds in the last thirty years. Today, it's a solid summation of Rangers Football Club, whose supporters are currently shooting nervous glances at the hangman.
The idea that football can stand in perfectly for wider society in microcosm has been one of my most long-running conceits, one that I drag out with monotonous predictability. If you'd wasted as much time banging the Football-Is-Politics, Man bongo as I have, then the riches-to-rags story of Rangers is a Godsend. It's been much like the financial catastrophe of '08 all over again, except with rib-splitting hilarity instead of brown-trousered terror.
Like so many elaborate scams, the story began in the 1980s when a businessman named David Murray bought one of Scotland's largest football clubs. In short, he invested what were then enormous sums of money in the team and its properties, building a footballing colossus that would dominate its domestic rivals. By the time he'd added internationally renowned superstars like Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup to his already glittering line-up, Murray's Rangers had become a blitzkreig force in an era of musketry.
Nonetheless, as the rest of the league imitated his big-money methods and began to catch up, Murray found himself having to spend ever greater sums just to keep ahead. Like his high finance co-thinkers, Murray turned to "innovative" banking methods to fund his excesses, setting up tax avoidance boondoggles that would later explode in his face like a parcel-bomb full of shitty tomatoes.
|Rangers owner Craig Whyte|
The parallels with high finance are surely clear - the risks taken to attain success that created only demand for more risks to create more success; the criminal tax avoidance schemes available to the super-wealthy but not to the man in the street, who stumps up or bends over; the sudden realisation that reliable products had not become worthless, but had in fact been worthless all along.
As it did 2008, cataclysm has crept up on the national consciousness, exploding seemingly from nowhere. Although the club's financial problems have been common knowledge among sports journalists for years, national media outlets - reliant on access to Rangers personnel for headlines and resulting profits - soft-pedalled and downplayed them. Just as it was in 1929, few asked serious questions until investors started hitting the pavement at terminal velocity.
Perhaps the most stark comparison is this - that the worst costs of Rangers' destruction won't be borne by the businessmen who drove it into the ground, nor by the players who pocketed such vast sums of cash. The full effects will be felt by the lowest-earning employees, by local businesses, by other football clubs owed whacking great payoffs, and by the club's supporters themselves, many of whom have spent small fortunes on their team.
Of these, it's most difficult to feel sympathy for the fans. Aside from other issues, a majority of Rangers supporters appear to have spent much of their Golden Era feeling, if anything, hard-done-by. Where other supporters of teams in difficulties have rallied to create pressure groups to ensure their club's survival, Rangers' fanbase has only been moved to demand more irresponsible spending.
More Rangers fans could've recognised the limits all clubs have to live within, even if few clubs' supporters are capable of such clear-eyed analysis. They certainly should've greeted the approach of a cartoon vampire like Craig Whyte with Hammer Horror-esque shrieks of terror, furious whittling and improvised crucifixes. Instead, when the BBC exposed the new owner's record of deeply dubious wheeler-dealing, many of them rallied around him and attacked the BBC, accusing it of conducting a hate campaign against the club. Because it had an agenda, you see.
As it turned out, the BBC were correct and now, the stench of death pervades Rangers FC so thickly, you can barely see Ally McCoist for billowing clouds of horseflies. As every new day brings fresh revelations of astonishing deceit, who can say how many bodies will be found buried under the Ibrox patio?
And again, we have to ask ourselves just how rife this kind of sharp practice is. One of the main reasons why the '08 crash was so deep and prolonged was the realisation that, as bank after bank failed, pretty much anyone could be guilty of the same fraud or recklessness.
How many more fans are going to watch their teams fold or falter, in the coming decade? If Rangers - a venerable club with a massive income and a huge base of passionate supporters - can go, anyone can.
Well. In football as in finance, the name of the game appears to be Fuckyounomics, or Success in the perpetual now, and we'll worry later. The club's supporters could now be left with armfuls of trophies and only their well-worn DVDs of past glories to watch on Saturday afternoons.
The revelations are now coming so thick and fast that attempts to build a We are all to blame narrative can't take hold, but there's plenty of time yet for that. Even the First Minister has felt compelled to warn that all of us Scottish football fans desperately need Rangers to survive, whether or not we agree.
Rangers were first in Scotland to turn their supporters into a goldmine, but one thing's for sure - now that the richest seams have petered out, each and every one is going to get the shaft.