I know this is a bit heavy … but I hope you’ll stick with it.
There has been much speculation of late as to whether “Newco Rangers” is – or, is not – a continuation of Rangers 1872/73. The issue has been thrown into even sharper focus in the past few days by news of the imminent potential transfer to Sevco-Newco of the “Old Rangers” SFA membership – and with it, they would have us believe, the history of the original Rangers.
Essentially it is a sterile, pointless debate. For those that want it to be, it is … at least it is in their hearts and minds, which is all that really matters to them; and conversely, for those that, for whatever reason, don’t want it to be, it’s not … and never will be. The legal, commercial and / or philosophical niceties of whether it actually is, or is not (insofar as that is possible to ascertain, one way or the other) don’t really matter – it’s all about individual and collective perception.
Or, is it?
Football is all about opinions – and no matter how powerful the arguments on one side or the other, sometimes conflicting opinions can simply never be reconciled.
Or, can they?
I was greatly intrigued by a post a few days back on Paul McConville’s always thought-provoking “Random Thoughts Re Scots Law” website, which pondered the issue in a challengingly entertaining manner. Invoking Trigger’s Broom, Theseus’ Ship and Douglas Adams’ reflections on the Golden Pavilion at Kyoto as analogies, guest poster ADM concludes, unless I’m reading it wrongly, that those who, in heart and mind, accept “Newco Rangers” as the reincarnation and continuation of Rangers 1872/73 have an absolute and inalienable right so to believe; and that if there are enough so-minded souls, the rest of us should just accept that and move on.
I absolutely see where he’s coming from and in principle, I agree … but philosophically and in absolute terms, I’m not so sure.
You see, returning to ADM’s analogies, both Trigger’s Broom and Theseus’ Ship, though physically transformed in the passage of time, retained throughout their metamorphoses, an unbroken link to a constant … Trigger and Theseus respectively. Likewise, the Golden Pavilion, though repeatedly razed to the ground and reconstructed, consistently served as a timeless, mystical shrine to Zen Buddhism, irrespective of the material nature or state of its physical containment.
Point being that it is the essence, not the trappings, of an entity that defines its existence and continuity. So Trigger’s Broom, though altered in every physical aspect, retained its essential being through the unbroken continuity of Trigger’s existence. Clearly, as the various components of the broom changed, it became, physically, no longer the same broom; but throughout, it remained, absolutely, Trigger’s Broom. Likewise with Theseus’ Ship and the Golden Pavilion, through Theseus and Zen Buddhism respectively.
So, what has all that got to do with the question of the equivalence, or not, of Sevco and Rangers 1872/73?
Well, the Rangers of brothers Moses and Peter McNeil et al had a handful of homes in the transition from the Fleshers’ Haugh to present-day Ibrox. Each location was physically distinct from the other, in much the same way as Trigger’s Broom, Theseus’ Ship and the Golden Pavilion were in constant flux; but each successive location remained equivalent in terms of being the home, for the time being, of the continuous, unbroken lineage of the then Rangers.
And there’s the rub – though Ibrox may remain and a team called “The Rangers” may base themselves there and play there in blue jerseys, as they so defiantly claim they will, that team will not and never can be the continuing Rangers 1872/73. When liquidation is completed, that club will cease to exist. The very fact that, at time of writing, it still co-exists alongside Sevco Newco is the ultimate proof that they are separate entities, NOT one and the same. No amount of legislation, transferring of shares or collective self-delusion will change that simple fact.
You see, continuity exists, not in location, nor structure, nor in the fabric or colour of a jersey, nor in nomenclature; but in itself and through its very being within any given entity – be that an individual, a group, or, indeed, a football club – for as long as that entity survives … and no longer.
Here’s an analogy of my own:
Take the hermit crab. As it moves from shell to shell, accommodating its growth throughout its life, it remains the same crab, irrespective of its physical location – until it dies, whereupon, of course, it ceases to exist. Though another hermit may annexe the vacated shell; and no matter how exactly the new occupant may resemble its late predecessor in size, colour, nature, or any other characteristic of its species, it is irrefutably a different crab.
Isn’t analogy wonderful?
History, too, is a wondrous subject. Almost invariably written by the winner, it is, perhaps, the most subjective … perhaps I should say, “the least objective” … of all disciplines. Much like the concept of continuity, the history of an enterprise is intrinsic; and it concludes with the demise of that enterprise, albeit the history itself survives the passing away.
In addition to intrinsic non-transferability, the history of an enterprise has one other uniquely distinctive characteristic – it is priceless and cannot be traded like some commodity on the open market.