RANGERS last night faced an obliteration of their senior squad as the prospect of no SPL football convinced captain Steven Davis and Allan McGregor, the Scotland goalkeeper, that they could no longer stay with the newco club.
Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ness also notified Rangers of their intention to leave and eight players have now objected to their contracts being transferred to the newco consortium under Charles Green, the chief executive, and investment bank Zeus Capital.
The decisions of Davis and McGregor were confirmed to the club last night and came as an especially devastating development for the Ibrox club's supporters after Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker, Sone Aluko and Rhys McCabe had previously objected to the transfer of their contracts. It had been thought that Davis and McGregor may agree to commit to the newco on the understanding that they would be sold later in the transfer window, thereby realising a fee for Rangers, but neither chose to pursue that option. Instead the players instructed the lawyers used by their union, PFA Scotland, to object to their transfer to the newco yesterday, having been advised that they had to do so before the start of pre-season training and the next distribution of monthly pay, both of which happen tomorrow.
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Herald Sport understands that those players who have said they will leave, and others who have yet to do so, feel that Green has done too little to persuade them to stay. All the departing players regard themselves as free agents who can sign for other clubs without transfer fees.
"Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Jamie Ness and Kyle Lafferty have instructed PFA lawyers' Bridge Litigation UK to object to their transfer to the Rangers' newco," said the law firm's representative, Margaret Gribbon. "The union's lawyers are already instructed in this matter for Rhys McCabe and Sone Aluko. Bridge Litigation UK has confirmed that letters of objection have been sent to the club along with requests to the SFA to release the players' registrations.
"Bridge Litigation UK have shared with the players the contents of legal guidance issued by the SFA last week on the issue of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, protection of employment) and player registration and which they state supports their legal view that an objection under TUPE amounts to a lawful termination of contract giving the club no entitlement to a claim for compensation.
"This has been an extremely difficult period for all the players and in the end their decisions were influenced largely by football issues. SPL football appears highly unlikely and even first division football cannot be guaranteed in light of comments made today by two Scottish Football League clubs. The players' commitment and loyalty to oldco Rangers cannot be questioned; they voluntarily took significant wage cuts in a genuine act of solidarity which ensured that none of the playing squad or club staff would lose their jobs. But for their contribution, it's likely that the club would not have survived until the end of the season.
"The players' careers are relatively short-lived and they are entitled to exercise basic employment rights the law affords to all employees in this country under the TUPE Regulations. I now expect the SFA and FIFA to interpret their rules and regulations in accordance with the TUPE legislation so that the players' registrations can be released without delay."
Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu, Neil Alexander, Dorin Goian and Kirk Broadfoot are now the most senior players who have yet to reveal whether or not they will stay in manager Ally McCoist's squad or follow the others in objecting to the newco. The Rangers squadat group has been split on whether to leave the newco as free agents, stay in the short term so that the club can receive a transfer fee when they depart, or else fully commit to playing for at least a season below the SPL. But others may also leave and Edu and Bocanegra could also announce their departures today.
There had been positive early news for the newco yesterday when Lee Wallace became the first player since Lee McCulloch to publicly commit to allowing his contract to be taken on by the newco. McCulloch had said he would stay with the club even if it was forced to begin its Scottish League existence in the third division. Wallace did not go that far yesterday, but did say he felt an obligation to Rangers supporters having signed a five-year contract only last summer.
Wallace was McCoist's second signing. A £1.5m deal was agreed with Hearts although the Edinburgh club is still owed £800,000 of that.
"When I arrived at Ibrox the support from the club, players and fans was fantastic," said Wallace. "The fans showed great faith in us all during tough times and I still feel I have more to show them during the remainder of my contract.
"My partner is expecting our first baby soon and my priority is to my family. This gives me the incentive to improve my performance and ultimately win trophies. My personal decision in no way condemns or judges those made by my fellow professionals as I believe each person has different circumstances and reasons which will determine the road they choose to travel at this particular time. I respect the decision taken by each individual player."
Rangers had been due to participate in the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup at Southampton on July 14 but the uncertainty at Ibrox has resulted in them being replaced by Anderlecht.