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Raith to vote no to newco

Published on 27 June 2012

Turnbull Hutton last night issued scathing criticism of Rangers as he explained why Raith Rovers would vote against a newco being admitted into the Irn-Bru First Division.

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Hutton claimed Rangers fans had intimidated one of his fellow Raith Rovers directors and threatened to "torch" Stark's Park during the Rangers crisis, and also criticised manager Ally McCoist and former player Sandy Jardine for their behaviour during the enduring drama.

Falkirk and Raith became the first clubs to declare against a Rangers newco entering the Scottish Football League at first division level, rather than being required to begin life in the third division.

Rangers are preparing their application for membership of the SFL after it became apparent that they would not be admitted into the Scottish Premier League when top-flight clubs vote on the matter next Wednesday. Charles Green and Zeus Capital's consortium need 75% of lower league clubs – or 22 of the 29 – to vote them into the SFL. It remains to be seen whether there will be a groundswell of protest about a newco starting out any higher than the third division, similar to that made by fans of SPL clubs.

The SFA have told Green to apply this week for membership of the national association, but he cannot do so without securing membership in a league first. The SFA is attempting to broker a deal between the SPL and SFL which could allow Rangers entry to the first division, therefore minimising the amount of financial damage caused on top-flight clubs by Rangers' absence.

The perception they will gain promotion in their first season could persuade Sky to preserve its deal. In return the SFL would seek the return of a promotion play-offs, a more equitable distribution of income, and a potential merger of league bodies. It is believed enough clubs will be supportive of the proposed deal and will vote in favour of it.

The SFL board met at Hampden yesterday and said its clubs would be consulted early next week about what steps are to be taken next. But there is no prospect of the newco having Raith's support. The Fife club issued a statement early yesterday starting that the club "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".

Hutton later explained that stance and said it partly referred back to the abuse suffered by fellow director Eric Drysdale, who had received death threats and was given police advice on his personal security after being named as a member of the SFA panel which imposed a 12-month transfer embargo on Rangers in April. McCoist had publicly called for the panel's anonymity to be removed, which it was.

Raith's own supporters had also bombarded the club with opposition to newco Rangers parachuting into the First Division, said Hutton.

"We have been inundated with emails from fans and season-ticket holders. People have said they are holding off on buying season tickets until they find out what is happening with Rangers situation and there are some strong opinions out there, with some supporters of 25 years saying they will not be back at Raith Rovers if we back the Rangers proposals.

"With what is happening with the SPL clubs, it seems to have been punted on to the SFL clubs to solve the problem, a problem which is none of our doing. But, personally, my view was that I would have difficult supporting any move to put Rangers in the First Division given the history of what has happened.

"This is the same Rangers whose supporters threatened to torch our stadium and whose manager demanded that one of our directors was named over his involvement with an SFA judicial panel, which resulted in TV cameras camping outside his door and threats being made by various outlandish factions.

"We also had Sandy Jardine publicly calling for repercussions for those clubs who have not supported Rangers. Given that, how could I, as an individual, be expected to roll over and have my tummy tickled by some inducement to allow Rangers to come into the First Division? I gave my opinion to the board on Monday night and the board had a position which was not in any way different from my own.

"That does not mean if and when there is a meeting of the SFL clubs and a vote that the outcome will go the way we want it to go. I imagine some clubs will see some short-term advantage to be had.

"But if long-term you cheese off your season-ticket holders and supporters and backers is it worth it? Do you sell your position for 30 pieces of silver for some short-term advantage or take the moral high ground? From our point of view, there should be an application from Rangers to come into the SFL in the Third Division and that is something that would, I think, be supported by all league clubs."

Earlier yesterday the chairman of Third Division Peterhead, Rodger Morrison, said it would be a "dangerous precedent" for a newco to join the SFL in the First Division. "It has to be the third division for Rangers if they are coming into the SFL. The First Division would be a cop-out in my view. It would set a dangerous precedent where separate rules exist for a club because it has a bigger supporter base or commercial importance. Even the Rangers supporters I've spoken to want the chance to start again and work their way back up.

"If the board of the SFL want to meet that's fine, but I cannot see any scenario where the SFL clubs will vote in favour of admitting Rangers into the First Division."

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