EXCLUSIVE: Gordon Smith says Rangers will have to accept change

GORDON SMITH has warned Rangers that they have no choice but to accept new proposals on league reconstruction – if they are voted in by clubs.

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Smith is behind many aspects of the proposed plan for a league shake-up
Smith is behind many aspects of the proposed plan for a league shake-up

With Rangers now only an associate member of the SFL, they have no voice in any part of the vote on the new shake-up plans which could revamp the Scottish game over the next year.

And it is a predicament that Smith, the former director of football at Ibrox as well as SFA chief executive, has great sympathy for.

In a passionate response to his club's inability to have a voice in the talks, Rangers chief executive Charles Green reacted angrily to proposals for a 12-12-18 format that would see the Light Blues remain in the bottom tier – even if they won the Irn-Bru Third Division.

This has led him to vow to explore any escape route for Gers to ply their trade in pastures new, either on the continent or down south.

But Smith says that if the new structure is voted through, Rangers will have no option but to embrace it, or find themselves in complete isolation from the club game.

While Smith has rightly pointed to the fact that – should the new league format be adopted – it would not cause any further delay in Rangers' returning to the top flight or in the resurrection of the Old Firm derby in a league context if they are able to win consecutive promotions.

He has also endorsed the new three-tier pyramid as "simple, entertaining and exciting" after he experienced it first-hand while playing in both Switzerland and Austria.

Smith said: "I can understand the depth of feeling and frustration that must be involved for both Charles Green and the Rangers support over this.

"Every club gets a vote on the matter, but Rangers, as an associate member, do not, and it is very sad that because of what has happened over the last year the biggest club in the country is without a say.

"But what I would say is that if this motion is voted through, then Rangers will have to accept it or they will have nowhere to go.

"Of course, Rangers have every right to explore every option available to them if they are not happy, but I don't think it is best to do that as a reaction to these proposals.

"That would be better done going forward. But leave Scottish football? You would have to ask yourself how Rangers could do that. Right now there may be talk over some kind of European League, but it will not be happening soon.

"So, if Rangers want to continue playing football, then they will have to abide with the decision taken when the matter is put to the vote, frustrating though that may be."

Smith is also sure that despite Green's opposition, the Ibrox club would not suffer if the plans went through.

He said: "The bottom line is that Rangers are currently in the fourth tier of the Scottish game and if they win the Third Division title they will be promoted to the third level.

"Should the new proposals be voted through, it would mean Rangers would be going into the third level just as they should if we stay as we are.

"Yes, if the new league goes through, Rangers would find themselves up against the same teams from the Third Division, but also from the current Second Division.

"So there is no way this can or should be seen as another obstacle to Rangers getting back to the top level."

For Smith, the new deals are very much a case of 'two out of three ain't bad'. With the SPL agreeing to league reconstruction and a greater share of the financial pot to the SFL clubs, leagues would finally come under the one governing body.

He said: "The SFL have asked for reconstruction and a greater share of the finances and they have that but, at the same time, the game will move to one governing body.

"If they fail to accept that then the status quo persists."

Recalling his time playing for FC Basel and Admira Wacker in the Eighties, Smith has no doubt that the new three-tier league set-up would inject some much-needed freshness into the Scottish game.

He said: "People look at this proposal and say that it is complex, but it is anything but. I played in both Switzerland and Austria under this format and it is very simple indeed, entertaining and exciting.

"Basically, teams play each other twice before a play-off league in the middle emerges. That makes for a lot of very exciting games with plenty riding on them and it also puts a lot more onus on the early-season games.

"Although the format has changed over there since I played, interestingly enough, it has not gone back to a 16 or 18-team league, but a 10-team league as the view is that it is more exciting."

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