Two very similar clubs, albeit ones with extremely different circumstances, are contemplating life outside of the national elite level of their sports.
Whilst Rangers F.C. have survived complete liquidisation, they find themselves with the unsavoury prospect of having to start the 2012/2013 Scottish football season in Division One. With enough opposition (barring an intervention from the Scottish Football League), they could even face the embarrassment of starting all over again in the Third Division. Fortunately for them, they understandably have one of the strongest fanbases in the country (that includes the whole of the United Kingdom) and could easily climb back into the top level. That is, however, if they don’t lose all of their talent.
Under contract law, the transferral of their contracts to the new Rangers company isn’t strictly binding and the Rangers players can refuse this. This has led to the situation where many international stars have quickly moved on, finding new contracts at the likes of Everton, Stoke and Sion of Switzerland. Despite owner Charles Green’s threats to take legal action against the deserters for “breach of contract”, I am behind them 100%. Not all of them are particularly big names, but they are stars for their respective countries and deserve to be somewhere they can get first-team football against the world’s best. Locking them into a contract that would see them ply their trade against Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath is hardly a prospect that many people would rush into their boots for. It will be incredibly tough for Rangers to provide a challenge next season but it’s a fate they have brought on themselves. Living way beyond your means will eventually ruin you and Rangers must be punished for bringing Scotland into disrepute. Leeds and Portsmouth have all suffered the same, dropping down to League One but, as the Yorkshire side have proved, they can climb back up with the right support. I have Rangers fans in my family and, for them and Rangers’ many other fans, they restore some dignity to the European club and perhaps challenge Celtic for the title once again.
I mentioned there were two clubs in trouble and we travel to the land of rugby league for this one. The dire situation of Bradford Bulls rumbles on and it is looking increasingly unlikely that somebody will come in and stop the Bulls from being liquidated. It’s a desperately sad case for the historic side, one that was challenging for titles not too long ago. Having sacked their entire coaching staff, there is still said to be optimism that they will find a new buyer within the week. I’m extremely sceptical but I don’t want to see this local club go under. However, just like Rangers, they have fallen because of mis-management and a poor handling of finances and it may well be just what they deserve.
Sticking with rugby, I’m delighted that London Welsh won their appeal to enter the British Premiership after beating Cornish Pirates last month. I find it shocking that the Rugby Football Union barred the Championship side from promotion because their facilities were not up to Premiership standard. It got even worse – having arranged a deal with Oxford United to groundshare, the RFU still opposed on a technicality. Now, justice has been served and London Welsh will have the chance to play against the best and attempt to qualify for Europe. Similarly, Newcastle Falcons, who finished rock-bottom last season, will rightly be relegated and have chosen not to appeal.
“Minimum standards” is a farce. I see no reasonable excuse for a local club to not climb rugby, football or any other sports’ ladder just because their stadium is too small. Surely allowing them to climb into higher leagues will grant them more funds in prize money so that they can grow naturally. It’s enough of a struggle without the authorities breathing down their necks and I’m not entirely convinced Welsh will cope with life at the top level anyway. We might as well give them a chance, though. In football, Premier League sides still have a respectable chance of having to face non-league sides in the FA Cup, even when their stadiums wouldn’t even be sniffed at by the Football League. It adds to competitions’ magic when the small clubs are given a chance to fight the big boys. When, having spent years climbing the pyramid and earning their place in the top-flight, they are refused because of attendance figures, you wonder if it’s worth the effort.
It has been a worrying couple of days for illnesses and injuries. Yesterday, Marussia GP test driver, Maria de Villota, was injured whilst testing an upgrade to the team’s car. The crash left her life hanging in the balance but she has regained consciousness and I hope she gains a full recovery. Elsewhere, Daniel Sturridge went in for tests on meningitis. It’s a very sudden turn of events and I hope the examination results come out negative. Purely in a sporting aspect, Sturridge is one of Team GB’s best players for the Olympic Football tournament and, although he is currently a ‘doubt’, I sincerely hope he returns to full fitness and shows his potential. Otherwise, I would quite like to see Huddersfield’s Jordan Rhodes given a chance after the fine season he just had. None of this David Beckham nonsense.
Apologies to the legions of Portadown fans who read this blog. Yesterday, in my first article no less, I declared that there were no British Europa League matches last night. How wrong I was! The Ports travelled to Macedonia to take on 79 Shkendija. The highly-anticipated match finished in a goalless draw, with both teams returning to Northern Ireland for the second leg. In the Champions League First Qualifying Stage, Linfield also finished their battle with B36 Torshavn with no goals and their hopes for progressing rest on the return trip to the Faroe Islands.
As reported yesterday, Andy Murray was able to beat Marin Cilic in the Wimbledon quarter-finals yesterday. Although rain once again threatened to disrupt proceedings heavily, Murray was able to come back and dominate the game, winning in straight sets 7-5 6-2 6-3. Murray is currently in action against David Ferrer for a place in the semis although, guess what, rain has suspended play.
Kevin Pietersen was in action again for Surrey yesterday, scoring 8 runs from 13 balls. Both Surrey and KP are probably hoping the batsman returns to India sooner rather than later.
The Six Red Snooker Championships continue in Bangkok, with holder Mark Selby through to the knockout stages after winning all four of his matches so far 5 frames to 1. Judd Trump has won two of his last three, the last one a 5-0 thrashing. After a sloppy start, Steve Davis and Jimmy White both recovered to put wins on the scoreboard. White beat Wuxi finalist Stuart Bingham 5-4, whilst Davis hammer Andrew Higginson 5-0, although he later lost heavily to Shaun Murphy.
The Tour de France continued yesterday, although the unfavoured Cavendish was unable to add a 22nd stage win to his CV. Fortunes were mixed for Team Sky, as Kanstantin Siutsou broke his leg in a crash, removing him from the competition. Bradley Wiggins was also held up by an accident, although he still remains just seven seconds off the lead. Cavendish could possibly win today’s stage, a flat route that favours the sprinter.
Both Scotland and Wales’ basketball teams were in action yesterday, with mixed fortunes. In the FIBA European Championship for Small Nations, Scotland were able to edge hosts San Marino 71 points to 68. Wales weren’t so lucky, crumbling 51 points to Malta’s 81. Both British sides are in the same group and take each other on tonight, with a place in the semi finals up for grabs. Scotland are the most likely of the two to progress, but have to hope group leaders Malta beat San Marino in their tussle. Gibraltar also have a chance to proceed, level on points with Andorra and Moldova.
England’s one-day cricket team are in action today as they hope to make it 3 from 3 against Australia. A 5-0 whitewash will make them the number one team in the world, joining their rankings for the Test and Twenty20 sides.
England’s rugby league take on the Exiles in today’s International Origin match. England have already won one of the two matches and hope to make it a clean sweep later today.