FIFA: 'Sporting merit' should come first in Rangers' First Division vote
By Grant Russell 10 July 2012 14:44 BST
FIFA say they will not intervene in the matter of which league Rangers play in.Christian Hartmann / Reuters
"Sporting merit" should come first when it comes to deciding which league Rangers play in next season, according to FIFA.
The world football governing body say they will not intervene on the matter if Charles Green’s new company gain immediate access to the First Division and bypass two tiers of the Scottish Football League, saying the final decision is for the Scottish FA to make.
FIFA’s Statutes state the “entitlement” of a club to take part in a league should “depend principally on sporting merit” and not depend on other factors, a point which has been emphasised by a spokesman for the organisation.
SFL clubs will vote on Friday whether to forego “sporting merit” in return for financial gain and a change to the league structure, although 13 of the 29 sides eligible to vote have already stated they would oppose such a move.
The Scottish FA’s chief executive, Stewart Regan, has already spoken out over the need for Rangers to be allowed to bypass the bottom two divisions in order to protect the financial future of the game.
He warned of the “slow, lingering death” of football in the nation if the club were not voted in to the second tier with immediate effect.
The Scottish Premier League has warned it stands to lose £15.7m per annum in commercial revenue if clubs decide instead to allow Rangers to enter at Third Division level.
The SPL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, reportedly told SFL sides last week that a number of clubs in his league stand to go into administration if a deal cannot be struck.
Despite any move to allow Rangers to compete in the First Division being stated publicly by those in power as a necessary financial decision, going against FIFA’s Statutes, the governing body say they will not intervene. They did, however, reiterate their standpoint as outlined in their rule book.
In a statement to STV, they said: “FIFA is not in a position to comment on the matter as this is a domestic issue which falls under the remit of the SFA and should be dealt with in accordance with the laws and regulations applicable on national level.
“However, and generally speaking, we can point you to Art. 9.2 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes under ‘Principle of promotion and relegation’.
“[It] states that “in addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the Member [Scottish FA]’s body of appeal.”
A spokesperson for FIFA also made clear that "sporting merit" should be the main factor in all cases where it is under consideration which league a club should participate in, regardless of any other circumstances.
The Scottish FA is obliged to abide by FIFA’s Statutes, as per its own Articles of Association, but is devolved the power by FIFA, and at confederation level by UEFA, to run the game nationally.
The Scottish FA were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Rangers manager Ally McCoist has stated his desire for the newco to start life in the Third Division, with the Rangers Supporters Trust also expressing the wishes of fans for the team to play in Scottish football's fourth tier.
One SFL chairman has told STV that if the governing body try to go against the decision of the clubs and insist Rangers are installed in the second tier, they would revolt.
Another stated on Tuesday that any talk of creating a breakaway SPL2, which was threatened to clubs if they did not vote Rangers into the First Division, was unrealistic.
FIFA’S STATUTES ON “PRINCIPLE OF PROMOTION AND RELEGATION” IN FULL
A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A club shall qualify for a domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.
In addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of the licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the Member’s body of appeal.
Altering the legal form or company structure of a club to facilitate its qualification on sporting merit and/or its receipt of a licence for a domestic league championship, to the detriment of the integrity of a sports competition, is prohibited. This includes, for example, changing the headquarters, changing the name or transferring stakeholdings between different clubs. Prohibitive decisions must be able to be examined by the Member’s body of appeal.
Each Member is responsible for deciding national issues, which may not be delegated to the Leagues. Each Confederation is responsible for deciding issues involving more than one Association concerning its own territory. FIFA is responsible for deciding international issues involving more than one Confederation.