It is the win that feels like a defeat for Rangers. It is the decision that, once again, provides more questions than answers when it comes to the future of the Old Firm fixture and relations between Ibrox, Parkhead and Hampden.

The situation regarding away allocations for the showpiece matches in our season has been discussed and debated for too long now. What was once a compelling story has become a saga. Now more than ever, it looks like one with no acceptable end in sight.

When it escalated in recent days, those in charge of the game had the chance to lead by example. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the SPFL fudged the outcome and bottled the decision. Not for the first time, Rangers have been left to query the governance of the organisation that is headed by Neil Doncaster, a man that they have long had fixed in their crosshairs.

No common ground has been found during the hours of meetings and conversations, spread across several seasons now, between Rangers and Celtic. Given that both are entrenched in their respective positions, the need for mediation and leadership has been evident for some time.

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It is no surprise that the Old Firm have found themselves in this position. When the clubs met for the requisite operational meeting ahead of the fixture at Ibrox in September, an offer of tickets for the away section was made by the Rangers delegation. When it was rejected, the course was set.

That match, which was won by Celtic thanks to a Kyogo Furuhashi strike, was played in front of home supporters only. That had been the case in a handful of previous derbies but this was Celtic’s decision rather than a joint one. Rangers respected their stance not to take up an allocation but made it clear that they expected to be offered around 800 briefs for the second Old Firm on December 30. It is a game that has taken on even greater significance given the shifting dynamic in the Premiership title race.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rangers confirmed they would have no fans inside Parkhead for Philippe Clement's first Old Firm outing. Not only had Celtic refused to grant an allocation, the Ibrox board believe they failed to participate fully in the process that sought to find a resolution to a long-standing issue.

“Despite winning a case put to an SPFL Board Sub-Committee, Rangers FC, with extreme disappointment, will not have any supporters present at Parkhead for the Old Firm match on December 30,” a Rangers statement read. “The Sub-Committee agreed with Rangers that Celtic FC’s stance of providing zero tickets to Rangers’ fans was unreasonable.

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Despite the fact that the Sub-Committee agreed with Rangers, the Sub-Committee was unwilling to determine what a ‘reasonable’ number of tickets for the fixture would be. The Sub-Committee was unable to determine this reasonable number due to the fact that the other party had not submitted enough evidence on this issue, despite having ample opportunity to do so in the weeks and months leading up to the hearing.”

Both clubs were asked to provide documentation relating to stadium access plans, segregation and safety operational blueprint, each of which is required by the Safety Advisory Group and Police Scotland, to the hearing. In their own statement, Celtic insisted that they were ‘very well-prepared’ for the meeting and were pleased that the SPFL ‘recognised the importance of safety and matchday experience issues in considering the question of a reasonable allocation for both fixtures.’ The SPFL were approached for comment on Tuesday.

Celtic have repeatedly cited their concerns over the safety of their supporters throughout this process, especially in light of incidents at Ibrox. Rangers have expressed similar fears over the same timeframe and remain open-minded about solutions at Ibrox and discussions were previously held with the Council and contractors regarding the installation of netting around the corner between the Broomloan Stand and Sandy Jardine Stand.

Celtic stated that they are ‘respecting the ongoing process’ but Rangers have been left disheartened by the lack of progress. They feel their Old Firm rivals have not played ball, with their statement reading: ‘It is grossly unfair that if a club (in this case Celtic) fails to submit sufficient evidence as part of such proceedings it effectively ties the hands of a Sub-Committee in being able to determine what a reasonable number of tickets should be; especially when the Sub-Committee agrees that the reasonable number cannot be zero. Conversely, if a club (in this case Rangers) complies fully and provides all necessary information in good faith, it can still be penalised.”

Rangers reaffirmed their belief that away supporters should be present at all matches and that they expected the arrangement to be reciprocated when they travel on Premiership duty. That stance is backed up in black and white but the SPFL have chosen to ignore their own regulations, namely Rule I27, which states that: “The Home club must make provision for the admission of such reasonable number of visiting supporters at every home League Match and Play-Off Match as may be agreed in advance with the Visiting Club and, in the event of their being unable to agree such number not later than 14 days prior to the date of the League Match or Play-Off Match in question, the number of visiting supporters allowed shall be determined by the Board whose decision shall be final and binding.”

The position of the other stakeholder in this discussion, Sky Sports, is also interesting and their voice should carry significant weight. An Old Firm fixture with only one set of supporters is a skewed viewing experience and hardly the sort of selling point that would encourage punters to part with subscriptions or the broadcaster to increase the value of their rights package once again.

The days of several thousand strong away crowds – with all the noise, colour and sense of occasion that comes with them - seem to be sadly gone forever. As it stands, no middle ground will ever be reached. The spectacle has suffered and this standoff is certainly not good for the game.

Rangers are naturally disappointed at the outcome but they are also frustrated at the manner of it and are questioning the process. What is the point of establishing a sub-committee if it is unable, or unwilling, to make a judgement? How can it be agreed that zero is not acceptable but a proper figure then not be deduced, especially given the knowledge of what has been in place previously? As Rangers stated on Tuesday, this ‘decision calls into question the effectiveness and highlights the procedural defects, of SPFL Rule I27.’

It also shines a light on the organisation that Doncaster continues to oversee. Rangers have been at the forefront of the push for change at Hampden for several years now but the highly paid chief executive continues in his post, even after suffering a bloody nose as a result of the costly cinch debacle that saw former Ibrox chairman Douglas Park vindicated in his court battle against the League.

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Rangers feel they have held up their end of the bargain but are left holding the wrong end of the stick. They will now consider whether or not to participate in future SPFL hearings and stated that they, alongside ‘several’ other member clubs, are looking forward to the ‘overdue findings of the ongoing, protracted SPFL Governance review.’

The outcome of this hearing or that review will not change the perception of Doncaster within the Ibrox boardroom or those in the stands. Many supporters believe the Englishman is not fit for purpose but he will remain in place while he retains the backing of most of the clubs that he serves.

Rangers have won small battles against Doncaster and the League. They will keep trying to win the war at Hampden.