PROSPECTIVE Rangers owner Charles Green would not commit to appealing the club's year-long signing ban yesterday after meeting the heads of the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Premier League at Hampden.
Rangers lost their appeal against the SFA ban and £160,000 fine on Wednesday night. There is the potential for the club to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland but that would be costly and time-consuming with no guarantee of success. Green's group, if it completes a takeover, would not face supporters' pressure to provide funds for signings while the ban remains in place during the next two transfer windows.
Green was circumspect on the issue as he left Hampden after meetings with Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster, the chief executives of the SFA and SPL respectively, yesterday. "Last night's announcement [that the ban would stand] was an option we'd considered when we bought the club," said Green. "We're discussing the options.
"The questions they were asking were just the obvious questions: what our intentions are, where we plan to go. We've achieved quite a lot, we've spoken to members of the board of the SFA and executives of the SFL and I think it's been a very, very productive afternoon. I think we're happy in that everyone is positive in looking at what's best for Rangers and the SPL. When we offered to buy the club we realised what the potential was."
Green's day of meetings continued when he held talks with fans' representatives last night. Among the assertions he made were that five or six individuals had invested in excess of £20m, and that both Freddie Shepherd, the former chairman of Newcastle United, and Mike MacDonald, once chairman of Sheffield United, were among a further group of potential investors.
Green also confirmed that documents have been signed to ensure Craig Whyte is no longer part of the process, and that the deal with Ticketus has been terminated, meaning they are among the creditors rather than being entitled to future ticket money. Furthermore, he insisted that season ticket prices will not increase for next season.
Earlier in the day, it had also emerged that if Rangers are found guilty of undisclosed payments during the Sir David Murray era, the club will be punished even if it is reborn as a newco. Green's group will form a newco club if they cannot secure a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), but even if that helps shed millions of pounds of debt it will not free them from the consequences of a possible guilty verdict from an SPL investigation into the use of Employee Benefit Trusts.
The SPL is still in the early stages of an investigation into accusations by Hugh Adam, a director until 2000, that for several years Rangers made out-of-contract payments to players without disclosing them to the SPL or the SFA; a contravention of the rules.
"It will take some time and, ultimately, it's being done by our lawyers," said Doncaster yesterday. Adam's allegations cover a period back to 1998. "These are complicated matters; far more complicated than people might think. The issue will be: have any of our rules been breached? If there is a prima facie case that they have been, then we will act."
Doncaster's view is that Rangers would not shed their history if they emerged from administration as a newco, and by extension would not escape punishment for undisclosed payments if the investigation returns a guilty verdict. "The football club still exists, it's only the corporate entity that changes," he said. "You would expect the club to take with it responsibility for anything which emerged from that investigation." There are 18 potential sanctions if Rangers are found guilty but the investigation could continue for months.
The SPL will meet on May 30 to discuss potential changes to Financial Fair Play rules. If approved, newco clubs would be deducted 10 points for their first two seasons and denied 75% of SPL sponsorship and broadcasting income for three years. If Rangers secured a CVA in the close season they would play in the SPL next term without penalty.
Some Rangers supporters have complained the rules are being introduced specifically to punish their club, while many other fans have accused the SPL of being willing to wave Rangers through without adequate penalty at the expense of sporting integrity. "All I can say is that we will continue to deal with clubs equally under the rules," said Doncaster. "Our job is to apply those rules, equally, without fear or favour to every single one of the 12 member clubs. That's what we will do. If everyone understands that, what will be the reason to be aggrieved? Every club will be treated exactly the same. I can't get into 'special cases'.
"'Administration' is the protection the court gives you when you can't pay your debts. There are two ways out of that; one is a newco, one is a CVA. But the distinction is relatively fine. I am baffled as to why such a distinction is drawn [by critics]. Of course it's not okay to waive £90m of debt. But it happens. I think it is a time which calls for cool heads and people willing to roll their sleeves up, step back from the situation and apply the rules equally."
Doncaster was dismissive of a threat by Livingston to sue for lost income after being demoted to the third division when they went into administration in 2009. The West Lothian club sent a letter to the SFA saying they would act if they felt Rangers were being treated more leniently than they had been.
But Doncaster said: "They were in the Scottish Football League the last time they went into administration. The first time, in the SPL, they went into administration, emerged via a CVA and had no points deduction at all. Rangers have had a 10-point penalty."