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Old 26th July 2012, 22:25   #1
Paul Brooks

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Default Rangers go the wire haggling over SFA membership

Charles Green’s stand-off with the Scottish Football Association will be taken right to the wire on Friday as they haggle over the terms and conditions which will be attached to their membership of the ruling body.

By Ewing Grahame

5:14PM BST 26 Jul 2012

It’s understood that Green’s Sevco Scotland Ltd have deigned to accept a 12-month signing embargo from Sept 1 and a fine of £160,000 from the SFA but are still unwilling to “accept” any future punishments from the Scottish Premier League over Rangers’ alleged use of dual contracts.

Should Rangers be found guilty of improperly registering employees for over a decade, the fear - as expressed by manager Ally McCoist - is that Rangers will be punished by having all trophies and cups won during that period stripped from them.

One might argue that such an outcome would not, indeed, be a punishment at all but merely the automatic result of having found to have cheated opponents during the period in question by fielding players they would not otherwise have been able to afford.

The real punishment would follow. Take, for example, the case of disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson. He set a new world record of 9.79 seconds in winning the 100m at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

However, the urine sample supplied by the Canadian afterwards contained traces of the steroid stanozolol.

Johnson, whose coach, Charles Francis, admitted that the athlete had been using performance-enhancing drugs since 1981, was stripped of his gold medal.

That, though, was a consequence of having cheated: the penalty handed down to Johnson by the International Amateur Athletics Federation was a two-year ban from all competition.

Green, like McCoist, does not wish to be similarly inconvenienced for any wrong-doing on the behalf of his predecessors.

The SPL, for their part, wish to be able to deliver a sanction in keeping with the seriousness of the charges which have been brought and their lawyers, Harper McLeod, have already stated that there is a “prima facie” case for Rangers/Sevco to answer.

It is now 14 days since Sevco was allowed to join the Scottish Football League in the Third Division. The deadline for being granted the SFA membership which will allow them to play competitively this season expires at close of business on Friday.

Green, it might be argued, is merely doing what any chief executive would do in comparable circumstances: ie, negotiate the best deal for his company.

The problem for him is that the oldco whose membership he wishes to be transferred and whose history he is anxious to assume, have already been found guilty of many serious transgressions, from wilfully refusing to pay their taxes to leaving a trail of football debt across Europe.

On top of that, there are the verdicts pending in the dual registrations cases as well as the Top Tier Tax Tribunal’s investigation of the alleged misuse of Employee Benefit Trusts.

These issues, while linked, are not interchangeable and there is no reason why the SPL would need to wait for the HMRC findings before announcing their own.

Given that, the only bargaining chip Green has at his disposal is the potential size of Rangers newco’s support and their appeal to broadcasters. Even so, he will feel that he is right to take this particular Mexican stand-off right to the wire.

He will remember, after all, how Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster, the chief executives of the SFA and SPL respectively, attempted to catapult Sevco Scotland Ltd into the First Division ahead of 20 other SFL clubs, only to have their scheme categorically rejected by the SFL members.

Consequently, it would be surprising if that embarrassing episode was not at the back of his mind during this Mexican stand-off. Green will see himself as Clint Eastwood to Regan and Doncaster’s Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef as the rest of Scottish football waits to see who will blink first.

The reputation of the national game has been tarnished by the events of the last five months at Ibrox and by the response to them from those in power at Hampden. There has been little credit to share between the participants: not so much the good, the bad and the ugly as unforgiven.

Prevarication has been the order of the day for the two ruling bodies and that unwillingness (or inability) to take control of the situation has made bad worse.

It is unfair on Brechin City, a club which needs money almost as badly as Sevco and one which has spent a significant (for them) sum on printing and distributing tickets and match programmes and selling corporate hospitality for their Alba Cup tie against Sevco, which may yet be cancelled less than 48 hours before kick-off time.

It is unfair on Dundee, who have still to receive their SPL membership from the Soon-to-liquidated Rangers oldco and who may, as a result, have to postpone the beginning of their league campaign.

It is unfair on Kilmarnock, who are due to host Dundee on Aug 4, because any switch to a midweek fixture would mean a smaller crowd and reduced revenue.

It is also unfair on Ian Black and Craig Beattie, players Sevco hope to sign on lucrative contracts and on whose behalf a press conference will be called on Friday, assuming membership is granted.

Most of all, it is unfair on the supporters throughout the country who will wonder - but surely not for long - whether their club would have been dealt with in such a fawning fashion if they had found themselves in a similar bind.
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