By MARTIN HANNAN
Published on Sunday 27 May 2012 03:42
Alphabet spaghetti of CVAs and EBTs could be coming home to roost but debate rages over SPL’s sanctions
WITH administrators Duff & Phelps announcing that they are ready to issue a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposal which will be finalised – or not – by 13 June, the immediate future looks brighter for Rangers.
But what happens if the CVA is rejected? The most likely answer is that the Rangers’ company will be liquidated and the club will survive as a new company in the SPL, with no further sanctions against them at this time.
Rangers will have to apply to stay in the SPL as a newco. If five clubs vote against them, the 140-year-old institution will cease to play football for the foreseeable future, unless the Scottish Football League admits them on an emergency basis – an extraordinary general meeting would be needed, called by 12 member clubs, and certain rules such as those that specify grounds and colours have to be registered with the League by 1 June would need to be set aside.
League sources confirm there is no automatic right of entry into the SFL for any club, which is why the newco route into the SPL will be the way ahead for Rangers should the CVA deal fall through.
That Rangers sought a judicial review over the one-year transfer embargo is proof of how the loss of the ability to buy in the transfer market – Green has close links to agents through his previous involvement with the ProActive Sports Management company – may fatally damage his CVA plans, leaving only the newco route to survival.
Talk of sanctioning the newco as it enters the SPL is a waste of breath. Though this will anger fans of other clubs, any attempt to impose further penalties – at this time – on Rangers will fail for the simple reason that no such extra punishment is allowed for in the SPL rules.
According to the SPL rule book, the penalty for going into administration is a ten-point deduction. That’s all. The SFA has issued its fines and transfer ban and, again, the rules do not allow for further penalties. Those who argue for “sporting integrity” face this quandary – what integrity is there in making up rules and sanctions to punish a club which has already been punished to the limit under the rules?
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster explained: “You have got some behaviour last year, which the SFA has dealt with and punished [by the £160,000 fines and transfer ban]. You can agree or disagree with the punishment if you wish, but the SFA have dealt with it. Rangers went into administration and they were punished under our rules.”
Doncaster is adamant the rule book has been followed to the letter: “All clubs are treated under the same rules in the same way. There aren’t special rules being applied.
“There’s the same set of rules in terms of newco that have been in place since 1998. They haven’t changed so there are no special rules being applied or adopted. Any perception that clubs are getting off scot free is wholly erroneous.”
Doncaster met the media last week ostensibly to talk up the new Financial Fair Play rules – “toughest in world football,” he said – which will see SPL clubs that go into administration penalised ten points or a third of their previous season’s total, whichever is the greater. The new rules also impose a transfer ban on any club failing to pay its tax liabilities, and proposes a ten-point deduction over two seasons and severe financial penalties such as withholding 75 per cent of SPL payouts to any club having to re-enter the league via a newco. The rules would change immediately but none of these changes are retrospective.
So, if the CVA fails, Rangers look most likely to survive as a newco in the SPL with history if not pride intact, as Doncaster conceded: “There are all manner of clubs who have come out through a CVA or a newco but no-one has ever insisted that their history stops.”
Rangers fans will definitely not be out of the worry zone if the club survives. The EBT dual contracts inquiry may take some time, as Doncaster agreed. “This is an enormously complicated area,” he said. “You have to ask how long it took for the HMRC case to come to fruition. These are complex areas, there is a lot to trawl through and the lawyers are working on it.”
But it could devastate the club all over again next season if the inquiry finds Rangers did operate dual contracts.
Doncaster said: “There is an ongoing investigation into payments outside of contracts. Every single action I would argue is being dealt with, or has been dealt with, appropriately. Where a club does something wrong it is penalised under the rules in every instance.
“You would expect the EBT investigation would continue to bind the football club.”
The clear implication of Doncaster’s remarks is that the rules don’t allow further sanctions on Rangers at this time, but should the club be found guilty of having operated a dual contract system, then Rangers will be heavily punished next season.
Being stripped of titles, as happened to Marseille and Juventus, might see those five gold stars on Rangers’ jerseys for winning 50 titles reduced to four, and the punishment could be even worse – anything from a fine to a further transfer ban, points deductions or even expulsion from the SPL.
Doncaster said: “There will be no special cases made for individual clubs, the rules will be applied fairly and evenly to all 12 member clubs as they always have been and as they always will be.
“There may be vested interests but vested interests are part of football. What’s important is that the rules are adhered to and applied.”
Doncaster admitted there were lots of “twists and turns” to come, and though the administration period could go on for months – Rangers would start the season ten points down in that case – the most likely outcome of a CVA failure is that the SPL clubs would decide the future of Rangers as a newco.
Eight chairmen would need to approve that newco. If five vote against, then Rangers would need the Scottish Football League to come to their rescue. If they don’t, Rangers FC will cease to exist.