RANGERS players were locked in dispute with administrators Duff & Phelps last night as the club faces a brutal £1m-a-month cuts package to stay afloat.
Players will face Hearts at Ibrox today with the threat of redundancy still hanging over their heads. Their union, PFA Scotland, effectively accused the administrators of intransigence last night for failing to agree to the players' offer to have some of their wages deferred until the end of the season in return for no job losses.
A second day of intense negotiations passed without a resolution last night as Duff & Phelps tried to save the club from liquidation. The administrators need to find £4.5m between now and the end of the season, the equivalent of £250,000-a-week.
The Rangers first-team squad had agreeed to defer a significant percentage of their wages for the rest of the season, but Duff & Phelps did not agree that it would save enough money. Their position is likely to make player redundancies inevitable next week.
"The union and their solicitors were concerned that they were only being furnished with skeletal financial information," said a PFA Scotland statement. "Nevertheless, and despite the lack of visibility on the club's full finances, the players voted to accept salary deferrals in the full knowledge that there remains a risk that these sums may never be repaid should the club not come out of administration.
"It remains our members' belief that their offer of wholescale wage deferrals addresses the administrators' goal of achieving short-term cost reductions and would also serve to assist discussions with potential investors.
"It is still our members' wish to reach a consensual position with Duff & Phelps which will achieve the administrators' objectives, avoid redundancies and ensure that no player's employment is brought to an end."
Duff & Phelps, manager Ally McCoist, the players and Fraser Wishart, chief executive of PFA Scotland, were involved in the talks but no final decision will be made until Monday at the earliest. Duff & Phelps have the authority to impose whatever cuts they want but there is a will to get as much "buy-in" as possible from the Rangers management, players and staff. If no agreement can be reached on wage savings, though, the number of redundancies may be higher. McCoist and his staff are also committed to cuts/deferrals if it will save jobs.
Duff & Phelps last night confirmed it had seized £3.6m from the client account held by solicitors Collyer Bristow, which was part of the £22.4m Ticketus money Craig Whyte used to buy Rangers. But Herald Sport can reveal that money, even if the High Court in London rules on March 8 that it belongs to Rangers, almost certainly will not be used to reduce the number of job losses.
McCoist managed to take a training session yesterday but otherwise he shuttled between meetings. "We appreciate this has been an extremely difficult week for all the staff and the supporters," said joint administrator Paul Clark. "Right now the situation is quite simple – income generated now will help secure the future of Rangers and we encourage supporters, who have shown tremendous backing throughout this process, to buy tickets for the Hearts game and future home matches." Last night around 2800 tickets were still available for today's game.
Despite hopes that the £3.6m money in Collyer Bristow's client account could reduce the number of redundancies, one finance expert told Herald Sport it would almost certainly not be used for that. "The administrators' job is not really to continue to run the club absorbing cash," said Neil Patey of Ernst & Young. "They've been put in there to recover money on behalf of the creditors. They have to preserve value in the club and try to get it back out of administration, releasing as much cash as possible for the creditors while keeping the business going. It would give them a bit of flexibility around the edges, maybe on paying the police or security or whatever. But their main aim is to keep the costs in line with the revenue."
The Scottish Premier League revealed it will discuss introducing new, tougher rules on financial fair play at a meeting of all 12 member clubs on Monday. The discussion could see the new sanctions introduced for clubs who end up in financial trouble because of overspending or trying to gain an unfair advantage through excessive spending. "If agreement in principle is reached this could mean our clubs voting on new, tougher rules on financial fair play at a general meeting either in April or July," said Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPL.
"To turn a blind eye, to allow clubs to continually fail to make prompt payments as they fall due, would be to allow those clubs to gain an unfair sporting advantage over all those other clubs that pay their players, the taxman and other clubs on time. It is vital the SPL continue to treat all member clubs even-handedly. It will be a difficult debate [on Monday] but it is vital that we do not shy away from these issues."
The SFA is to investigate claims by the former Rangers director Hugh Adam that additional payments were made to players at the club from the 1990s until 2002, when he left Ibrox, without being disclosed to the SFA. That would be a contravention of the governing body's rules. Campbell Ogilvie, the SFA president, was secretary at Rangers during the period covered by Adam's allegations.
Stewart Regan, the SFA chief executive, said the matter would be investigated, in addition to the independent inquiry into Rangers' collapse into administration which is due to report next week.
"We are now in the final stages of our independent inquiry," said Regan. "It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage. We are, however, aware of the most recent allegations made against Rangers by a former director. We shall investigate this matter thoroughly and then comment."