Rangers chaos theory scrutinized as Ibrox’s financial downfall and rise outlined in new book and academic lecture
It’s a work – one over a decade in the making and around 100,000 words – that could be classed as Brian Howieson’s own chaos theory.
The plunge into the fall and rise of Rangers was not a labor of football love, as such, for Howieson, a Falkirk supporter and professor at the University of Stirling. Yet his fascination with demons and detail has resulted in his own interpretation of the most remarkable and controversial events to ever hit Scottish sport and a Scottish institution.
Howieson’s expertise is not in accounting or law, but a forensic eye allowed him to scrutinize the events leading up to Rangers facing Brechin City in the Ramsdens Cup first round in July 2012 It was a new chapter in Rangers history, but not the first written by a new club.
These years from the Third Division have been dubbed ‘The Journey’ by supporters and Howieson went through his own trials and tribulations for some time. His book – titled ‘Rangers Football Club: 1998 – 2015: A descent into chaos, resulting chaos and an emergence from chaos’ – may never have been published after DC Thomson pulled out of a deal and erected a wall of silence.
His perseverance paid off and Howieson will hold a conference next month which will see him present his own hypothesis on how and why Rangers – as a club and supporter – fell victim when the chaos ensued inside and outside Ibrox.
“About 20 years ago I met a guy who grew up in Kent and he knew nothing about the Battle of Britain,” Howieson told the Herald and Times Sport after self-publishing his work before. the event in the Logie Amphitheater on Thursday, November 10. “But he used to look up at the sky every day and say ‘something pretty mega happened up there’. So he wrote a book about the Battle of Britain and that’s became a bestseller.
“There was always something that interested me about it, so what I tried to do was apply a strategic framework to explain it. I considered from the start that a company was operating the club and i got the various legal sources i came to the conclusion that the club were not perpetrators but victims.
“There was a decline before Craig Whyte by Sir David Murray. I tried to understand what happened by businesses bought and sold and the effect it had on Rangers Football Club.”
The main protagonists of the Rangers tale – Murray, Whyte and Charles Green – are well known even to casual observers, but the list of characters, most of whom can be interpreted as villains, is long and the names and deeds will not forgotten by a supporter who suffered no fault on his part.
Many see the infamous £1 deal which saw Whyte take over Ibrox as the beginning of the end. Howieson’s analysis goes back much further in history’s cancellations, however, as Murray financed the seasons of reckless largesse with Dick Advocaat at the helm and was left in the ‘perfect storm’ of a financial crisis. world, the EBT legal fight and its attempts to keep Murray International Holdings above water.
Howieson is ready to give Whyte the initial ‘benefit of the doubt’ but when Ally McCoist’s side were knocked out of the Champions League in August 2011 the well dried up. Within months, Whyte was standing on the steps of Ibrox and confirming his administration plans.
Sections of society and all supporters will tell you that the Rangers were killed by Whyte. Even now, some argue that today’s Rangers are not those formed in 1872, the one that bills itself as Scotland’s most successful club and celebrated its 150th anniversary as champions for the 55th time.
“First of all, there’s the difference between a business and a club,” Howieson said of his desire to address three main questions that are integral to the book. “Celtic fans are still obsessed with it and think it’s the same thing, but I have two quotes from Lord Nimmo Smith and Lord Glennie that clearly indicate a business running a club.
“It helped me a lot. The club plays in blue and white at the Ibrox stadium. I say that clearly.
“There were a lot of stakeholders around the club who suffered and the reason they suffered, they were victimized, is because it was the company Rangers who caused the damage. I claim it.”
The tale of the Rangers’ death wasn’t just the language of the obsessive internet. It was as bad then as it is now, but those who choose their own reality will not be convinced otherwise.
The Fourth Estate was at times responsible, and Howieson is precise in his terminology to avoid confusion and ensure that the facts lead all observers to the truth.
“A lot of the language around it was flippant and lazy at times,” Howieson said. “When you see ‘Rangers’, are you talking about the football club or the many companies that operated it?
“What we have to do is help people understand. When people say ‘Rangers’ they think of Ibrox football club. But there is a Rangers which is a football club and then all these companies.
“If we can be clear on the language, Rangers as a football club are not dead, the company that ran the club has gone into liquidation and is still being liquidated. So what is dead? Nothing.”
Howieson did not seek to judge or blame. Instead, it strives to offer an academic explanation of the complexity of a case that had, and still has, sporting and societal ramifications.
Green’s introduction into the saga did not end Ibrox and the lawsuits and payouts, including millions of pounds paid by the taxpayer, ensured the drama continued long after the initial damage inflicted by Murray and Whyte. .
Plans for a second book saw Howieson complete his first work at the time of regime change in 2015 as supporters finally had heroes to salute. Today’s events are always at the center of his analysis of the past.
“I’m going to the AGM in a few weeks and it’s the Rangers International Football Club plc AGM,” said Howieson. “It’s not the general meeting of the football club, although most people will talk about Giovanni van Bronckhorst and the players.
“I tried to separate it all out and once I understood that it all stems from that because it’s so obvious. The club didn’t do anything wrong, the club were the victim because those are the parent companies that have done the damage.”
Like Whyte, Howieson is ready to give Green the benefit of the doubt as he identifies the ‘noise’ surrounding the Yorkshireman as his biggest problem. His gaze on others is not so forgiving.
Tensions between Ibrox and Hampden reached a crescendo in the spring and summer of 2012 and relations remain strained as supporters choose not to forgive or forget.
“The SFA and SPL could have done a lot more here,” Howieson said. “They put the boot in Rangers. They did it.
“I would like to think, as a regulator, that they would also learn lessons on how to help a football club in distress through no fault of their own.
“It was the parent company that did the damage, but they put the boot in Rangers and it was unfair to the football club.”
A 22-year career with the Royal Air Force and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons was the precursor to Howieson’s entry into academia and his work on Rangers history followed a growing interest in leadership in financial and football circles.
He has teamed up with the SFA and the School of Sport at the University of Stirling and believes the events at Ibrox should remind supporters at all levels to question the running of their club and the money men which underpin it.
“The message to fans of all clubs is that you need to be aware and question what the parent company is doing,” Howieson said. “I don’t think until about 2009 Rangers fans knew that MIH owed the bank £1billion. They didn’t.
“Some of them may have been skeptical or worried, but I’m not sure they understood how exposed the football club was to this.
“I would say in the future, in general, all football fans should be very aware of who runs their club, why and what the books say. We’ve seen it with clubs in England.
“Fans of all clubs should be clear about who they belong to, so I think there are lessons to be learned regarding the parent company and the football club. I’m not a financier or an accountant, but the lessons to draw are very clear.”