Posts Tagged ‘ Charles Green ’

Scottish Football Reconstruction On The Horizon

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The Scottish Football League and Scottish Premier League have agreed on a set of principles to restructure the game – including a merger of both bodies, which could be implemented as soon as next season, and would see a new league structure. Both sets of clubs will vote on the proposals by the end of this month; however the announcement has been met with a furious response from Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green.

If accepted, there will be three new divisions consisting of 12, 12 and 18 clubs, all run by a new, as yet unnamed, organisation. After 22 matches, the top two leagues will split into three divisions of eight members, playing each other once home and away. A trophy will be awarded to the club finishing top of the second tier at that stage. The premier division (or Super Eight) will then compete for the title and European places.

The first four members of the middle group will stay in the top 12 for the following season while the bottom four will play in the second tier. Whoever finishes first of the final eight-team pile will also receive silverware but at least one and, possibly two, will be relegated.

Similarly, at least one club will automatically be promoted from the bottom tier, with the potential for another to join them through a play-off.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, “We have had a very productive meeting of the Scottish FA’s professional game board at which we had board representatives from around a third of the 42 senior clubs in Scotland. I’m delighted to say that we have agreed a set of principles to restructure Scottish football. That will include a single league body, subject to club consultation.

“There is a recognition that Scottish football is crying out for a new dawn and we have now got agreement to take to clubs. That is a huge step for the game in Scotland and it should not be under-estimated. We will deliver the change when we think it is the right time.”

SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir said: “I was hugely encouraged by today because we need to get the pillars of the game back in solid foundation. The governance of the game and distribution of wealth will now affect all 42 clubs, and I think that in itself is a major breakthrough. Every club should be able to embrace this because they are all going to benefit from it.”

What the model ensures is vibrancy and excitement at all stages of the season for clubs at all levels,”

SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster said: “What we have at the moment is a situation where perhaps at the bottom of the SPL and top of SFL1 it can be very difficult when you have one club detached at either end. Effectively the middle eight, all 14 games played by those clubs, is a play-off game.”

Meanwhile Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green said the plans will make the rest of the season meaningless.  “If this does happen what’s the point of us finishing the season? Why should we send players out to get broken noses — like Ross Perry last week — or have players getting surgery when no one can get promoted or relegated?

“We might as well have a winter break now until next August. I see no point in us carrying on with meaningless matches. In what league do you win a division and then end up playing the same teams again the following season? “There is no meaning to it, in reality.

“If this is what we have sat eagerly waiting to transform Scottish football, my advice to the board of Rangers is the quicker we leave Scottish football the better. I can’t see anything that will transform the finances, status or the excitement.”

Green added: “On first glance, there is nowhere for us to go because FIFA have made their feelings known on cross-border leagues. However, we have noted the comments of Standard Liege, and what Peter Lawwell said at his AGM a few weeks ago when he discussed the changes in Europe.

“Hand on heart today there is not an option, but that does not mean we should not be looking for one. If all we have to look forward to over the next four years is more madness then we would be failing as directors not to explore the alternatives.”

“The current top flight is remaining at 12, the second league is going up to 12 and everybody else gets bundled into a third league of 18. If that is what we have come up with then it is a sorry state.

“A year ago we were being told we had to listen to the fans, Rangers were put into the Third Division and we accepted that. This year we don’t listen to the fans and go off and come up with a plan. From what I’ve heard most fans want a bigger league. What really should be done is a radical look at Scottish football rather than tinkering around the edges.”

Hibs Chairman Rod Petrie’s Address To AGM

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Hibs Chairman Rod Petrie last night addressed the shareholders at the club’s AGM and once again urged lapsed supporters to return to Easter Road in their numbers or see a reduction on costs. Petrie also highlighted the reduced income from TV following the loss of Rangers from the SPL, and praised the work of the Hibernian Foundation and the supporters group ‘Let’s Work Together.’

He also apologised for the two seasons of under achievement and conceded that the appointment of Colin Calderwood was not a good one. Finally he advised those present about the two recent suggestions for league reconstruction currently being discussed by the SPL and SFL.

His full statement is printed below.

We have approved the Financial Statements for last year – only our second loss in eight years. We are keen to avoid a hat-trick and need your help to grow revenues while we continue to maintain a tight control on costs.

The poor performances on the pitch in the early part of last Season resulted in lower attendances and lower levels of income. This followed a difficult summer in which Colin Calderwood was linked with two jobs in England. When neither of the moves happened, Colin failed to convince supporters of his long term ambitions for Hibernian Football Club and Season Tickets suffered.

After a credible draw at Celtic Park at the end of October, Colin Calderwood left the Club following an ignominious defeat at home to Dunfermline Athletic in front of 9,531 supporters.

The way things worked out, the appointment of Colin Calderwood was not a good one. Mistakes were made. As Chairman, I take responsibility for that. I am sorry that we have all had to endure two seasons of under-achievement and decline.

After a thorough recruitment process, Pat Fenlon was appointed the Manager on 25 November 2011. He faced a tough task to turn around the Club’s playing fortunes. Pat completed the Club’s home SPL programme on 7 May 2012 with a return match against Dunfermline Athletic, this time in front of 15,281 supporters. The team won 4-0 to secure the Club’s status in the top flight of Scottish football – which should never have been put in doubt.

That progress and the Club’s re-engagement with supporters suffered a severe blow with defeat in the William Hill Scottish Cup final on 19 May. The Club apologised to supporters for the manner of that defeat in the aftermath of the game.

Some people had mixed emotions when the fourth round draw for this Season’s Scottish Cup paired last Season’s finalists. Pat Fenlon and the team were delighted to have the opportunity, so quickly to atone in small measure for the events of last May. We look forward to the fifth round tie against either Aberdeen or Motherwell.

The deep disappointment of May was compounded by major uncertainty over the summer months regarding the finances of the SPL following the insolvency of Rangers. New TV contracts were eventually negotiated with Sky and ESPN and approved by the SPL clubs on 3 August, the day before the start of the Season. The worst fears of financial meltdown were avoided.

Rumours of the financial position of Rangers had been circulating for some months but it was still a jolt to Scottish and European football when Rangers finally went into administration on 14 February. It took four months of twists and turns, deals and no deals, before the Rangers’ CVA was voted down by HMRC on 14 June.

Having run out of money, the Administrators immediately sold the assets to the consortium led by Charles Green, which had the effect of putting Rangers outside football. By selling Ibrox Stadium and splitting it from the club’s membership of the SFA and the SPL, Rangers had lost its ability to play football in Scotland or, indeed, anywhere in the world.

It took four months to put Rangers outside football. It took Scottish football just six weeks to find a place for the Rangers’ Newco.

Your Club did what it thought was right at every step of the process. The rest, they say is history.

Our performances on the pitch this Season have improved dramatically following the major overhaul of the playing squad undertaken by the Manager in the close season. However, it looks as if it will take sustained performances on the pitch over an extended run of games to have a meaningful impact on home attendances and so on Club revenues.

The number of home supporters attending Easter Road Stadium has grown slowly, game by game since the start of the Season – 9,024 Hibernian supporters attended the first home game of the Season whereas there were 10,136 Hibernian supporters in Easter Road Stadium at the last home SPL league match against Aberdeen.

And some 13,000 Hibernian supporters were here for the fourth round tie in the William Hill Scottish Cup.

It would be nice to think that those 13,000 supporters will return here at 3pm on Saturday for our SPL clash against Motherwell – or that we might achieve a modern day record attendance at 3pm on Saturday 29 December. The Celtic game has not been moved for TV. The only way you can see the match against the league leaders is by being here in the Stadium.

Growing the attendances by Hibernian supporters is our core strategy. We are asking supporters to do what you do best – support the team at home matches. If we cannot do that, and if we cannot grow our income, then the only route to get back to break even will be to make substantial reductions in costs. The Club is asking shareholders, supporters and everyone connected with the Club to play your part in getting back to where we all want it to be.

The Club has approximately 8,000 Season Ticket holders which is up on the number for last season despite the severe economic conditions facing every household. The Club is grateful to those supporters who rallied to the call in the summer to find additional Season Ticket Holders. In the main, it was existing Season Ticket Holders who bought the additional tickets or who bought Kicks for Kids tickets to help those less fortunate than themselves get access to Easter Road Stadium.

We know that there are still a significant number of individuals and families who had Season Tickets in 2010 and 2011 but who are not Season Ticket Holders today. Hopefully the Half Season Ticket offering will add to the number of Season Ticket Holders in the second half of the Season.

Members of the Lets Work Together group made telephone calls to lapsed Season Ticket Holders as part of the drive for renewals in the summer and their calls were appreciated by all who received them. The “Let’s Work Together Group” is a supporter led initiative formed over the summer and drawn from right across the Hibernian Family. Members of the Lets Work Together Group meet with staff on a regular basis to discuss ways in which the Club can improve. They have come forward with a range of good ideas to foster greater collaboration between Club and supporters. This is a small beginning which we hope will develop over the coming weeks and months for the benefit of the Club.

The Hibernian Community Foundation continues to make a difference in our communities:

· 468 learners have attended the Hibernian Learning Centre in the last two years

· 88 Football Fans In Training have lost almost 6 metres round their waists and 216 Kg in weight

· 67% of all participants in Fit For Work have gone on to employment or further education

· Over 45 players with learning disabilities have been coached by our U20 Academy players

·  And numerous young people have participated in a number of community coaching initiatives

The landscape of Scottish football is changing. The SPL spent two years developing a strategy for all of Scottish football. At the end of the day, the SPL could not win over 11 of its 12 clubs let alone the clubs which are members of other leagues. However, discussions are now being pursued in earnest between the SPL and the SFL under the auspices of the Scottish FA. There are two options which have been put forward in recent weeks:

· The SFL has suggested that the SPL and the SFL could be merged into one league for all 42 clubs organised into a top division of 16 clubs; a middle division of 10 clubs; and a bottom division of 16 clubs. That has merit, but on its own does not deal with the top clubs suffering a 20% drop in the number of games going from 38 league games per season in the current set up to 30 games per season in a 16 team league.

· The SPL has suggested that the 42 clubs could be organised into a top tier of 24 clubs with the remaining 18 clubs (currently SFL Division 2 and 3 clubs) organised in a manner that they think is best for them – either on their own or with clubs drawn from the Highland League; the East of Scotland League; and the South of Scotland league.

· The top 24 clubs would be organised into two groups of 12 clubs for the first half of the Season. They would play each other home and away, giving each club 22 fixtures in this first phase of the League which would run through to the New Year fixtures.

· Then, following a Winter Break, the second phase would consist of three groups of 8 clubs. This gives a further 14 fixtures per club and a total of 36 matches for the Season.

· Having a Top 8 continues the theme of ‘best v best’ with the top clubs playing for the Championship and for European places.

· The Middle 8 – possibly known as the ‘Play Off 8″ – would comprise the bottom 4 clubs from the top 12 and the top 4 clubs from the bottom 12. These 8 clubs would start on zero points and over 14 matches and would play for promotion and relegation. This means that up to four clubs could be relegated and up to four clubs could be promoted in each Season.

· The Bottom 8 clubs would play to avoid relegation and play offs which could lead to relegation from the tier containing the top 24 clubs in Scotland.

Both plans call for a change in the financial distribution model to reduce the huge financial difference which exists at present between the bottom of the SPL and the top of the SFL. A softer financial landing takes away the threat to the very survival of a club through relegation.

Neither plan is being advanced as a mechanism to provide for the accelerated promotion of Rangers.

There have been constructive discussions of late and more discussions are planned for the weeks ahead. Your Club will continue to play its part in these discussions at the top table of Scottish football.

Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, there have been significant changes at your Club – not just on the pitch but also behind the scenes and in the senior management of the Club. I should like to thank every member of staff for their hard work and dedication to the Club. Some of it is supporter facing but most of it is behind the scenes. They are the unsung heroes who help make your Club what it is today.

I would also like to thank Pat Fenlon for accepting the post of Manager at a particularly challenging time and for attacking the task of rebuilding the squad with conviction. Pat himself will tell you that it is still work in progress as we approach the January Transfer Window.

Today, we find ourselves near the top end of the most competitive league in recent years. We are 1 point away from second place; but there are just 5 points covering the six teams vying for a top six position alongside Celtic. With 27 points from 17 games; we are just 6 points short of our total points haul for the whole of last Season.

The stewardship of your Club is in the hands of the Board of Directors. The future of your Club is in the hands of the supporters who help in a real and tangible way by attending matches either on a seasonal basis or as walk up supporters. Our plea is a simple one – if you can, please attend matches at Easter Road Stadium to support your team!

Everyone wants Hibernian to be all that it can be, with success on the pitch, influence off it and making a difference in our communities.

Meanwhile, the Under 20 game against Celtic at Easter Road today has been postponed. This is bad news for Pat Fenlon and Gary Deegan who was expected to gain some much needed match practice following his recent injury.

Rangers to start next season in Division Three

A newco Rangers will compete in the Scottish third division next season after SFL clubs voted overwhelmingly against the proposal that they be allowed access to Division one.

After SPL clubs voted them out of the top division, it has been widely accepted that the SFL clubs would accept a deal which would see the Ibrox club only drop down one division, but fan power persuaded chairmen to vote against the package.

At Hampden today, twenty-nine of the thirty SFL clubs accepted Rangers as an associate member of the Scottish Football League while 25 clubs voted in favour of placing the newco team into the bottom tier.

Dundee, who are now almost certain to be promoted to the SPL next season were asked not to vote.

Rangers’ website immediately responded by suggesting that the club had assurances from SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and his SFA counterpart, Stewart Regan, that an SPL2 would be launched to include Rangers and other invited clubs, however this was quickly amended to read “It was mooted last week that plans for an SPL2 would swing into action, but it is not known if this will be the case.”

It now appears that the newco Rangers will start with a game against Peterhead at Balmoor on August 11, after Chief Executive Charles Green made a statement clarifying the club’s position.

He said: “We are grateful to be accepted as members of the SFL and accept their decision to vote us into Division Three.

“We made clear we would play where we were told to play and we just want to get back to playing football.”

“This decision maintains the sporting integrity that clubs and fans across Scotland have been calling for, but it also impacts massively on Scottish football as a whole and only time will tell what the consequences will be.

“Rangers has been handed the ultimate punishment of starting again from the bottom of the leagues, but there is an overwhelming feeling among fans and within the club of ‘wiping the slate clean’ as a club free of sanctions.

“The people who brought shame on this great club are no longer part of it and everyone at Rangers is focused on rebuilding the club on top of a solid financial foundation.

“We wish to play a constructive part in Division Three and encourage our fans to support the other clubs within the league by attending matches and delivering to them the benefits of having Rangers within their league.

“It is a matter of regret for all of us involved with Rangers that the issues surrounding the club resulted in the SFL and its members being placed in a very difficult position not of their own making.”

SFL chief executive David Longmuir said: “The member clubs of the Scottish Football League have today voted to willingly accept The Rangers Football Club as an associate member of the Scottish Football League.

“Furthermore, the Scottish Football League’s only acceptable position will be to place Rangers FC into the Third Division of the Irn-Bru Scottish Football League from the start of this season.”

“I’m comfortable today that the Scottish Football League made a very, very decisive decision that was based on sporting fairness and I think the Scottish Football League were in the right place to make that decision.

“This decision followed a tried-and-tested process and was taken in cognisance with the other options which were available for consideration.

“Today’s decision has been one of the most difficult for all concerned but it has been taken in the best interest of sporting fairness which is the fundamental principle of the Scottish Football League.

“The Scottish Football League has been entirely consistent with our willingness to work with other bodies to ensure that we focus on rebuilding our game, restoring pride in our game and exploring revenue streams and our willingness to achieve these aims does not alter.”

Rangers manager Ally McCoist said: “I fully accept the decision of the SFL today and thank them for allowing us into the SFL.

“Clearly, starting again from the bottom league is not ideal and makes the task of rebuilding Rangers a longer one but the SFL was placed in an impossible situation and I respect its decision.”

“I fully supported the fans’ views that starting again in Division 3 maintains the sporting integrity that the SPL clubs were so keen on.

“The SPL clubs and the SFA have made their positions clear over the last few weeks and it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of their decisions will be.

“Rangers has been severely punished for the actions of some individuals who previously ran the club and it will take time for us to recover but we will come back stronger thanks to the loyalty of the fans and the commitment of everyone at Ibrox who are working tirelessly to bring stability and success back to Rangers.

“I will be carefully monitoring events and reactions over the next few days and will be making further comments probably early next week.”

SFL clubs vote on future of newco Rangers

Scottish Football League chairmen will vote today to decide the immediate future of a newco Rangers.

Early indications suggested that a majority were in favour of the Ibrox club starting on the bottom rung, and the position was made even more chaotic when a last minute legal decision allowed both Dundee and Airdrie to vote. Both clubs would potentially be promoted should the result go against Charles Green.

SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan remains desperate to see a newco Rangers start in the first division and has warned of dire consequences should the vote go against them. He said:  “Without Rangers there is social unrest; there is a big problem for Scottish society.

“I think if you look at the huge fan base Rangers have in this country, to contemplate a situation where those fans don’t have a team to support, where those fans are effectively left without a game to follow – I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues and all sorts of problems for the game. Tribalism in football is really important, a part of the game.

“You can’t contemplate a situation without that and if Rangers weren’t to exist I think that could have real dire consequences

The deal on the table, should newco Rangers be accepted into the first division was circulated to all clubs prior to the vote and are reproduced as follows:

A payment of a minimum of £1 million + VAT will be made by the SPL to SFL to purchase the broadcasting and other rights in respect of SFL Division One next season.

A resolution will be tabled to a general meeting to allow for play-offs at end of season 2012/13.

A working party will be formed, including three representatives from both the SPL and SFL, to devise a new structure for the senior professional game in Scotland.

The introduction of an enlarged top tier for Scottish Senior Professional Football.

 A new detailed model for senior professional football in Scotland including number of divisions; number of clubs per division; number of matches per season per division; number of promotion and relegation places per division and the introduction and operation of play-offs.

 A combined rule book

Governance recognising that one league body should have a chairman and two non-executive directors (to be appointed by the board and nominated by a panel with equal representation between i. the top division and ii. the other divisions). Three directors elected by clubs in top division and two directors elected by clubs in remaining divisions.

In the event that any change to the rules has any bearing on position rights, divisional structure including promotion and relegation, then any change would require the support of 75% outside of top tier of football clubs.

An all through distribution model, providing certainty for all clubs as to the percentage of distributable income that would be received.

 An integrated executive.

 The introduction of a pyramid for Scottish football to provide a route for licensed clubs to enter the new structure effective 2014/2015.

The value and number of parachute payments to be made across the new structure.

Despite this offer, fan power appears to have won the day and Rangers are unlikely to be able to find sufficient votes to begin their SPL exile in the first division.

Ahead of today’s meeting, Rangers boss Charles Green told Sky Sports News: “It’s a time now for realisation, the vilification and persecution has to end and common sense needs to prevail. We’ve always been prepared for both eventualities and the fans have always said that they are happy to go to the third division. I hope today’s decision will be the final word but I am not convinced that it will.”

A decision is expected later this afternoon, and the full account will appear in the Irish News Review this afternoon.

The Downfall of Rangers Part 3

Now that the vote against a Rangers newco being admitted into the SPL next season is a formality John Hislop looks at the implications for the remaining clubs.

There is no doubt that this is a problem many SPL chairmen could have done without. A successful Rangers bring a healthy support at least once per season, and sometimes twice, whilst the Sky TV deal which plays a significant in most teams overall budget is dependent on four competitive old firm clashes every year. Without these two sources of income, many pundits predicted that clubs would go to the wall. On the other hand, their own supporters have withheld renewing season tickets and are threatening boycotts should Rangers punishment be deemed insufficient.

Hibs supporters at least are confident that their club will prosper without Rangers, and the possible revenue loss will be made up by cost cutting, an unexpected transfer bonus and additional pay at the gate fans should they start well.

Hibs have sold in the region of 7,000 season tickets for the coming season at an average cost of £228, bringing in an income of just under £1.6m. This number is down from last year after 2000 fans failed to renew. Some new fans bought season tickets to ensure that they were able to attend the cup final, but this number has not made up for the deficit.

With only one home game this term against Celtic, unless Pat Fenlon can win a place in the top six, the board would normally expect at least two home fixtures against Rangers.

When either half of the old firm visit Easter Road, the away end which holds 3800 is normally sold out. With tickets costing £28 each, these games bring in over £100k in revenue.

Whoever replaces Rangers will probably bring less than a quarter of that number, with tickets costing £22, bringing in only £20k, a shortfall over the season of £160k. Take stewarding and policing costs into account and a figure of £150 is more realistic.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a lot of money, director Fife Hyland has left the club saving a reported £80k, and  Hibs have received £70k following a sell on clause for defender Sol Bamba who joined Turkish side Trabzonspor from Leicester City, covering the cost totally..

The Sky money is paid based on the final position of each team at the end of the season, rather than on the number of times they appear. Last year, Hibs were third, behind the old firm in the number of times they appeared on television, yet they received the second lowest payment due to their 11th place finish. The changes in kick off times also mean less home supporters attending, again dropping the revenue. Last season’s payment was believed to be under £1m.

The satellite broadcaster which, together with ESPN, is three years into a £65million five-year deal, with an improved £80m five-year deal, to supersede the existing agreement, which remains unsigned and, barring a remarkable turn of events, looks likely to remain so.

Sky however has claimed that they will continue to support Scottish football, which could include a separate agreement to screen Rangers games in a lower division.

The jewel in the crown for Sky and ESPN is the four old firm games, and without that guarantee, at the very least, the broadcasters will be looking to negotiate, meaning less money being available.

In an effort to combat this, discussions are also on-going regarding a two legged Glasgow Cup final which would allow two competitive old firm fixtures with the possibility for up to three more, depending on League and Scottish Cup draws.

If the payment criteria remain the same, a top six place would make up any difference to the budget, so the pressure is on Pat Fenlon to deliver a team capable of finishing in the top six and also playing a brand of football which attracts more pay at the gate supporters.

Despite the projected drop in finance however, Hibs fans are united in their determination to see an SPL without a Rangers representative.  Polls on the fan’s forum websites, Hibs Net and Hibees Bounce revealed that over 99% of fans wanted Rod Petrie to vote no. This figure is replicated on other club’s sites.

It’s not all doom and gloom at Easter Road however, as fans point out that a winning Hibs team playing attractive football would attract a sizeable increase in the average attendance which would more than cover any losses.

When the club played in the first division, after being relegated in 1998, more Hibs fans attended the games that they did last season, with more that fourteen thousand against Raith Rovers and Falkirk over the festive period. The cup final proved that the fans are there of the product is right, and now could be the time for Hibs to regain their place at the top end of the SPL.

Some other clubs are not so fortunate and without the Rangers income, there is a real possibility that they could go the wall. Motherwell, who have agreed to allow their supporters to vote have issued a statement suggesting that administration is a possibility whichever way the vote goes. In a guidance document sent to fans, the club stated: “”The board is of the view that whatever decision is made on the newco vote by the SPL clubs, the financial position of Motherwell Football Club will suffer. On a purely financial basis, a ‘Yes’ vote would likely preserve commercial revenues, however the impact on gate receipts is unclear.

“The risks presented by a ‘No’ vote are slightly easier to quantify insofar as gate receipts are concerned, but even then are extremely uncertain given we do not yet know what the SPL commercial partners will decide. There are clear risks to the financial stability and very future of this club presented by the current situation.”

This also applies to Kilmarnock, whose chairman Michael Johnson initially indicated that he would vote for the newco purely for financial reasons; however he has now also agreed to consult the fans and take their feelings into consideration.

St Johnstone also confirmed they will pay a financial penalty but insisted they were left with no moral alternative. A club statement read: “The economic climate has made it extremely difficult for anyone involved in football and any reduction in income will have a serious impact on this football club, but the board believes that sporting integrity should not be sacrificed in favour of economic expediency.”

At the moment, the media are reporting that the governing bodies have verbally agreed to allow a newco Rangers into the First Division next season; however certain SFL clubs have already registered their protest.

Falkirk chairman Martin Ritchie issued a statement opposing a Rangers newco: “The board at Falkirk FC strongly believe the current turmoil should be a catalyst for change in Scottish football. League reconstruction, First Division play-offs, a fairer distribution of the game’s wealth and the ending of undemocratic voting systems should be the minimal levels of change. It would be totally unacceptable if a Rangers newco were admitted to the First Division on the current rules. Even a weakened Rangers newco would have resources that far outstripped all the other First Division clubs and this would pretty much guarantee them promotion before the season even starts.”

A statement from Raith Rovers’ board read: “Raith Rovers FC continues to closely monitor developments in the saga of who will replace the liquidated Rangers within Scottish football. As proud members of the Scottish Football League, we may soon be called upon to consider proposals for the way forward not only in relation to any vacancy that may arise in our league but also in respect of the future construction of the game in Scotland. Whilst we retain an open mind on the subject of league reconstruction, and will carefully consider any proposal put to us by the SFL board in this regard, the board of directors of Raith Rovers FC is unanimous in its view that we shall certainly not cast our vote in favour of any integrated plan that in our view compromises sporting integrity by involving the admission of any ‘Newco’ directly into Division One.”

Meanwhile there was more bad news for Charles Green when Steve David and Alan McGregor joined Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith by refusing to sign for the newco, leaving only Lee Wallace and Lee McCulloch committed to playing at Ibrox next season. Green has threatened any club signing these players that he will demand compensation through the courts.

Whatever the future holds for Rangers and Scottish football, this story has a long way to run.

The Downfall of Rangers Part 2

A dramatic 48 hours now means that, barring miracles, there will be no representative from Rangers in the top flight of Scottish football next season, as any lingering hope vanished when four SPL clubs joined Dundee United and Hearts in publically stating that they will vote no to a Rangers newco joining the SPL, thereby making the vote on 4 July a foregone conclusion.

Eight clubs, including Rangers had to vote in favour of the newco, but that now looks certain not to happen, given the positions of the various members.

On Sunday, after a board meeting Hibs formally announced that they would reject the newco bid, then the following day, Aberdeen, Inverness Caledonian and St Johnstone did likewise.

Hibs chairman Rod Petrie was the first to set the ball rolling with an interview with BBC Sportsound when he made his position clear, stating: It’s not a question of any sum of money in return for that integrity – integrity is beyond purchase. It’s important that all clubs can have a place within football, provided they have earned it in a sporting sense and also have abided by the rules.”

Sunday’s statement from Hibs read: ‘Following a meeting of its board of directors, Hibernian FC confirmed that the club will vote against the transfer of the Rangers share in the SPL to a newco at the general meeting of SPL clubs on 4 July 2012. This re-affirms the view of the board that the sporting integrity of the SPL is of paramount importance.

‘The board is also acutely aware that in making this decision, Hibernian – like other clubs in the SPL – will suffer collateral financial damage at a time of severe economic hardship and uncertainty. The board believes it is time for all fair-minded supporters to get behind their clubs and to contribute in whatever way they can to the viability of the professional game in Scotland.’

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson met fans’ representatives after being bombarded with correspondence telling him supporters would not renew season tickets if he voted a Rangers newco into the top flight. Following the meeting, a United spokesman said: “ The board of directors of Dundee United are unequivocal in the belief that a form of sporting punishment must form part of the reasoning behind any decision made and, therefore, cannot vote the newco into the SPL”

Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov expressed “deepest condolences'” to Rangers supporters “who have been lied to for so many years,” and a statement on the club’s website read: “Supporters deserved a new beginning and have to accept the fact that their club has to start from the lower league, keeping order in the SPL and without creating unfair competition with other clubs.”

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne said “It is our intention to oppose readmission to the SPL for any Rangers newco. If readmission were to be refused, we believe the appropriate action would be for Rangers newco to apply for membership to the SFA and to submit an application for admission to the SFL.

“One of our major objectives has to be to work with everyone concerned to ensure that the commercial challenges that this case has and will continue to cause can be mitigated as far as they possibly can so that sporting integrity can be the overriding factor. Reorganisation of the game is a priority but should not be rushed through just to deal specifically with one club.”

St Johnstone insisted they were left with no moral alternative. “The economic climate has made it extremely difficult for anyone involved in football and any reduction in income will have a serious impact on this football club, but the board believes that sporting integrity should not be sacrificed in favour of economic expediency. St Johnstone Football Club will not support an application by newco Rangers to join the SPL.”

Inverness Caledonian Thistle issued a statement on the club website stating: “The club will be voting ‘No’ to an application for SPL entry from a new company which has acquired the assets of Rangers following the liquidation of the previous company.”

“We would be in a completely untenable position, financially and morally, if we defied the overwhelming demand of our paying customers who are, after all, what Caley Thistle are all about”.

No decision has been made by Celtic, but Chief executive Peter Lawwell has also shown little sympathy with Rangers’ plight, and that, coupled with the strength of feelings amongst fans indicates that the Parkhead club will vote against their greatest rivals.

Motherwell have agreed to allow their fans to decide which way they should vote however the club subsequently issued a statement suggesting that  they could face administration if they cannot “replace significant amounts of income” once the status of the Rangers newco is decided.

St Mirren, Ross County and Kilmarnock remain undecided.

The question now remains as to what will happen next. After hearing the news, Charles Green said: “I’m obviously disappointed, but we have to deal with the cards we have been dealt, It’s unfortunate people have come out and made these comments when my understanding was that there was going to be a vote next Wednesday, but I can’t control other clubs. The consortium realised that if we went down the newco route it was a risk. It doesn’t alter their resolve. Those guys invested knowing these were obstacles that were outside their control and the resolve is there to see this job finished.

“I said at Murray Park on the 13 May that my job will be finished when we have got financial security, when the debts are paid, when it’s floated on the stock market and the fans have got the right and the opportunity to buy shares. And nothing has changed since 13 May.”

“We really need now to get behind the club because we can see both from what’s been said by the SPL and what’s been happening with the players that really, really you need to unify and unite behind Rangers. Let’s now start moving this club forward, stop the fighting, stop the disagreements, and get behind the club.”

Rumours abound that the SFA and SPL will merge which would allow a Rangers Newco into the first division to replace Dundee, and thereby limiting the potential time that they could be outside the top flight. This may appease Sky TV who currently demand four Old Firm games per season, but the situation is unprecedented and no-one can be certain of what the future holds. Dunfermline, who were relegated last season, could also present a case for inclusion, rather than Dundee.

Entry into division one looked more likely after the governing bodies of Scottish football announced that they have held further talks about radical change to the league system.

The Scottish Football Association, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League are in discussions to create a single league system with a new financial distribution system.

In a joint statement, the SFA, PL and SFL said: “All three parties have been involved in productive discussions for some time on the subject of league reconstruction. This culminated in a positive meeting last night, out of which the two league bodies will now engage in a wider consultation with their member clubs.

“Further consultation will take place in the near future, with the aim of reaching a positive outcome on a new model to take Scottish football forward.”

Since that meeting, media reports suggest that a verbal agreement has taken place which would allow a Rangers newco into the first division next season, but this is by no means a formality. Even being allowed back into the lowest rung of Scottish football cannot be taken for granted as they would need the agreement of 23 of the remaining 30 clubs, so with time passing and so much to be decided there remains the distinct possibility that the Ibrox newco could have to take time out for a season to allow to progress smoothly.

Tomorrow, John Hislop looks at the implications for the remaining SPL sides in the event that a Rangers newco is refused admission to the top division.

The Downfall of Rangers Part 1

It now looks almost certain that Club 12 in the SPL fixture list for next season will not be a Rangers newco. In a three part series, John Hislop examines the background to the demise of one of football’s most successful clubs, and looks at the impact on the remaining teams in the SPL.

The Glasgow giants, were founded 1872. They have a glorious history with a world record 54 League Championships, 33 Scottish Cup Victories, 27 League Cup wins and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup when they defeated Moscow Dynamo in Barcelona in 1972.  Numerous legends have worn the blue jersey over the years including George Young, Jim Baxter, John Greig ,Willie Henderson, Davie Cooper and current manager Ally McCoist.

In 1971,Scottish football changed forever after  66 Rangers fans died when stairway 13 collapsed following an old firm game and manager Willie Waddle set in process a rebuilding programme which saw Ibrox turned into one of the finest and safest stadiums in Britain

On the field however, an Alex Ferguson inspired Aberdeen became the main challengers to Celtic, and crowds dwindled alarmingly, until the ‘perfect storm’ of 1986. Graeme Souness, one of the finest players Scotland had ever produced agreed to take over as player manager, and the fact the English clubs were banned from Europe meant that he was able to entice star players like Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, Gary Steven Ray Wilkins and Trevor Francis to Ibrox, starting off an unprecedented spell of on field success.

Souness was able to persuade his friend David Murray to invest in the club, and both men demonstrated their courage and conviction by signing a roman catholic, Maurice Johnston, ending years of unwritten tradition. This initially led to protests with some fans burning season tickets and scarfs outside Ibrox, although Johnston won over the majority with his performances.

After Souness left for Liverpool, Murray appointed Walter Smith to the manager’s post, and he continued the success, backed by Murray who famously said that for every five pounds Celtic spent, he would spend ten.

This was music to the ears of the Rangers fans, and the club were able to attract stars like Paul Gascoigne, Mark Hately and Brian Laudrup whilst winning nine titles in a row, equalling Celtic’s feat under Jock Stein.

During that spell, Rangers defeated English champions Leeds United in the Champions League and came within one game of reaching the final before being eliminated by eventual winners Marseille.

Suddenly winning everything in sight in Scotland seemed to lose its appeal, as Murray sought European success, replacing Smith with Dick Advocaat. More expensive signings including Tore Andre Flo for £12m arrived, but Murray’s ambitions failed to materialise, and debts mounted.

During the 2000-2001 financial year, Rangers purchased a tax plan from the Baxendale-Walker. The scheme, which can be operated legally, was known as an Employee Benefits Trust (EBT).  When money is transferred to an EBT, it is no longer the property of the employer; instead it becomes the legal property of the trustee.  A business owner can legally deposit large amounts of his company’s profits in the trust and then apply to the trustee for a loan.  In practice, the loan never gets repaid, and the business owner or senior employee pays only a nominal interest rate on the loan (or tax on the benefit in kind).  This amount is only a fraction of that the loan recipient would have paid had he received the money as salary or a bonus which would be subject to PAYE and National Insurance Contributions.

When something is too good to be true, then it normally is, and this may or may not have been the case at Ibrox.

Following a lengthy investigation by HMRC, Rangers were sent a number of tax assessments which the club appealed.  In the several tribunal hearings that followed, evidence was presented by both sides and now it is for three judges to establish whether or not Rangers pursued an illegal scheme for more than a decade. Various amounts ranging from £70m to £134m have been reported in the media, but informed opinion suggests that a final figure would be much less than that.

Meanwhile, Sir David Murray continues to insist that everything was above board, and told Sky News last week: “It’s not tax evasion, it’s a discretionary scheme, it’s non-contractual with the players. I think that you’ll find that the law has now been changed, two years ago, in December 2010 it was from our last reckoning HMRC have confirmed that there are 5,000 companies with 50,000 individuals involved in similar schemes. As you know it’s been going for ten years. We’ve never hidden the scheme, the remuneration trust has been in our accounts every year, it’s not been hidden, it’s there for everyone to see.”

Whilst the court case was pending, Murray decided to sell the club, citing 20 years as enough for anyone to contend with. He assured worried supporters that he would only sell to someone with the best interests of the club at heart, and in May 2011, he sold his controlling interest (83.5%) to businessman Craig Whyte for £1.

Murray has since claimed to have been duped by Whyte, who had previously been disqualified from being a company director for seven years. For a businessman with Murray’s acumen not to have discovered this during due diligence in unlikely, although he insists that this is the case.

On 13 February,  Rangers applied to the Court of Session in Edinburgh to enter administration proceedings over non-payment of £14m tax after it was discovered that Whyte had failed to pay any income tax or national insurance since he took the helm at Ibrox.

Administration resulted in a ten point deduction which effectively gave the league title to Celtic, whilst players agreed to massive wage cuts, in some cases up to 75% to reduce the number of job losses.

Losing the title was the least of their problems however. Administrators appointed by Whyte, Duff and Phelps subsequently accepted a bid from an unidentified consortium fronted by former Sheffield United chairman Charles Green.

On 14 June, a CVA submitted by Green offering to pay creditors 9p in the pound was formally rejected and Rangers Football Club ceased to exist.

After the CVA was rejected, Green’s new company known as Sevco 5088 bought the assets of Rangers, including Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park for a reported £5.5m, with the intention of transferring the shares from Rangers and continuing in the SPL, debt free. He also claims to have bought the players contracts, however the Scottish PFA believe that employment law means that all Rangers players can leave the club as free agents. This matter is still to be resolved, but stars Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith have already refused to join a newco.

Since acquiring control of Rangers assets, Green has turned down a reported bid of £6 from a consortium fronted by former legend Walter Smith, with the backing of billionaire Jim McColl and businessman Douglas Park, which was seen by many as the ‘dream, team’ who would return the club to its former glories. Green’s refusal to accept the bid had caused anger amongst the Ibrox faithful, many of whom are refusing to renew season tickets.

A meeting of all SPL chairmen will take place on 4 July where a vote will take place on whether to allow Green’s newco into next season’s SPL, but it is now widely believed that they will not be able to gain the eight votes required.

Potentially a Rangers newco could start in the fourth tier of Scottish football although talks between the SPL and the SFL are on-going with a view to the new club appearing in the first division next season, which at the moment appears to be the most likely option.

Tomorrow, John Hislop looks at the reaction from other SPL clubs ahead of the vote.