Ten years ago, Glasgow Rangers were still adjusting to a new life in the bottom of Scottish professional football as the 54-time league club drew 2-2 with Peterhead.
Rangers’ rejuvenation from that low will be sealed on Wednesday when they face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final, the second of UEFA’s club tournaments that could be the highest-grossing game in their 150 years of football. ‘story.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” former Rangers player Charlie Adam said of the long road from being liquidated and banned from Scottish football’s fourth tier until Wednesday’s game at Sevilla.
Rangers are the first Scottish club to reach a European final since 2008 and victory would make them the first to win such a title since 1983.
“It will go down in footballing folklore,” agreed Mark Warburton, who managed one of the three Scottish Premiership promotions. “Can you imagine Real Madrid or Barcelona being rejected in Segunda B or C?” he said, referring to the lower echelons of Spanish football. “That’s what happened to Rangers.”
After dominating Scottish football in the late 1980s and 1990s, Rangers ran into financial difficulties amid ownership changes and disputes with HM Revenue & Customs over non-payment of taxes and the use of offshore trusts to pay managers and players.
Liquidation followed, leading to Rangers being kicked out of the top league by other clubs. A new company which bought the assets then applied for and was granted a place in the Scottish Third Division for the 2012–13 season.
“I think I’ve been on every pitch in Scotland,” Jim Bowman, 61, who runs a supporters’ club, said of the time when Rangers and their fans traveled to the lesser-known stadiums in Scotland. country.
Rangers eventually returned to the top tier, culminating in the first Scottish Premiership title of last season since liquidation under Steven Gerrard, who robbed Glasgow rivals Celtic of a record 10th straight win.
“Things really started to take shape when Steven Gerrard came into the football club, rebuilt it and put a standard back into Rangers and what it means to play for them,” said Adam, who played with the former Liverpool and England captain.
Rangers’ run to Sevilla contrasted with a stuttering defense of their Scottish title, with Celtic winning the league this week to seal a place in the group stages of the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
One of the reasons Wednesday’s final is so crucial for Rangers is that victory would mean they join their rivals in UEFA’s showpiece tournament, bringing some of the riches that come from the club competition of continent’s elite.
“Winning the final in Sevilla will be the most lucrative game in the history of the club,” said Kieran Maguire, Liverpool academic and author of The price of footballnoting Celtic’s revenue topped £101m in 2018 when they last appeared in the group stage.
Rangers’ success in Europe comes at a positive time for Scottish football, with the men’s national team ending a 23-year absence from tournaments to contest the UEFA European Championships last summer. The team is also in play-off for a place at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Scottish football is often weighed down by derogatory comparisons to the much richer game south of the border. Warburton, who has led West London side Queen’s Park Rangers in the English Premier League this season, noted that the side that finish bottom of the English Premier League still receive nearly £100million for coming last.
“Finance is what it takes,” said Warburton, a town trader before moving into management. Scottish football needs to find a ‘credible long-term solution to add more money to grassroots football to allow the game to thrive’.
For Rangers, a vital step towards that will be victory on Wednesday. Now managed by former player Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who replaced Gerrard mid-season, the team recorded their best performances for Europe, including memorable wins against Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.
Both are well ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt in the mid-table in the Bundesliga which gives Rangers confidence.
Adam, who was part of the squad in the 2008 loss to Zenit St Petersburg, was optimistic, saying Rangers were “back to where they should be, competing in Europe and competing for titles. There is a big expectation that they can go and win it.
“For a Scottish club to get to a final is a huge achievement. It could be one of the biggest achievements in British football.