Division 3 - No Sanctions?

The RFFF launched a poll of Rangers supporters last week in order to give fan feedback to Charles Green and his consortium, who have some major decisions to make in the coming days on where the club will play. If you have a Rangers number you can vote until Monday lunchtime. (https://www.research.net/s/RangersFanSurvey). Whilst this is an excellent idea, I think it’s important to clarify some of the issues surrounding the decision of where the club plays next year.

Firstly, I would like to say that although I don’t agree with everything the RFFF have done during the past couple of weeks I’ve been amazed at the criticism levelled at them by sections of the support. The RFFF were set up to administer money which has been donated by the club’s fans during a very difficult period for the club – something they have done with the utmost integrity. They are Rangers fans giving up their own time to help the club. I may not agree with their decision to keep aspects of their meetings with Charles Green confidential, but they are trying to assist the club and the supporters and whilst we can disagree with them they should not be subjected to abuse. As a support we need to learn that sticking together is part of the battle.

The RFFF survey gives us three options to consider. They are as follows:

  1. Division 1 with potential sanctions
  2. Division 1 with no sanctions
  3. Division 3 with no sanctions

Whilst I appreciate the RFFF are just trying to gauge opinion, I would urge caution when the results come in because I don’t believe that the fans are yet clear on the real options available to us. I am led to understand that the only two choices we actually have are:

  1. Division 1 with sanctions
  2. Division 3 with sanctions

I don’t think enough is being done to explain this so let me try.

As things stand the club is out of the SPL. Events this week, where the SPL clubs have tried to bully the SFL into taking Rangers into the 1st Division, show that the statements made about sporting integrity are nothing more than lies and posturing. The SPL clubs only care about themselves. That has been the case since the SPL was set up. Their statements on sporting integrity are nothing more than a sop to their more vocal fans who have been leading a witch-hunt against Rangers. Anyway, no matter the purity of their motives, they have now painted themselves into a corner and will lose the income that Rangers supply and on which they depend.

The SPL clubs prefer the idea of Rangers being relegated into Division 1 because it gives them the possibility of hanging on to survival until Rangers can return to the SPL to subsidise them. This would have to take place before 4th July. It is not clear on what basis we would be relegated but basically they would make up a rule (as is their way) and dock points from last season. It has to take place before 4th July because once they have voted us out they cannot relegate us. This option is becoming increasingly unlikely given understandable opposition from SFL clubs to this stitch up.

The simplest option is for Rangers to be relegated to the 3rd Division. This does not require another of the convenient rule changes which have dogged this process. However, it is the misconception amongst our support that this would be the end of the matter that worries me. I’m quite prepared for the club to resume playing in Division 3 but we should understand that it will not be treated by others as the clean slate that is being suggested.

Firstly, the SFA have put certain conditions on the transfer of our club membership to the new company. These include agreement to pay all footballing debt (a concept of dubious legality in Scotland where no football creditor rule exists). Furthermore it is a condition of transfer that Rangers accept penalty for any outstanding investigations and agree to waive our right of legal challenge to further sanctions. The SFA are also still trying to get Charles Green to agree to accept the unlawful transfer embargo which the club successfully challenged in the Court of Session. The SFA are worried that if it is not accepted then their kangaroo court, which is still to be reconvened, will impose a suspension or expulsion on Rangers (despite previously accepting themselves that this would be too harsh a sanction). That is where the SPL come in.

The SPL have still to complete their investigation into the so called “dual contracts” issue. This involves an assertion that Rangers did not properly declare payments from EBTs to the footballing authorities. This investigation will still take place and, if found guilty, is likely to involve an attempt by the SPL, led by Celtic, to strip titles from the club. This investigation is being conducted by Celtic’s lawyers Harper Macleod and will be decided by the SPL board. The current SPL Board is made up of Ralph Topping (SPL Chairman), Neil Doncaster (SPL Chief Executive), Eric Riley (Celtic FC), Stephen Thompson (Dundee United FC), Derek Weir (Motherwell FC) and Steven Brown (St Johnstone FC).

Given their record to date does anyone believe that will be a fair trial? Many SPL clubs are on record as stating the need for Rangers to be punished for “dual contracts” without an investigation even having been concluded. I’ll be quite clear; I don’t believe someone like Stephen Thompson or Eric Riley can be objective on this topic. I think they want to hammer Rangers and will make any decision through a cloud of their own bias.

We’ve heard a lot about conflict of interest in regard to Duff and Phelps. Indeed it was the subject of a BBC documentary. Well you don’t get a much bigger conflict of interest than the Celtic lawyers conducting an investigation into Rangers which could see trophies being handed to the club they represent. The idea that a Celtic director should also be involved in deciding any relevant sanctions is even more bizarre. It’s interesting to note that the media don’t seem to be at all concerned about this.

It is also worth noting that because of the SFA stipulation that the club is not able to seek legal recourse to defend itself then, if Charles Green accepts, the club will be unable to challenge this second, SPL kangaroo court. We already know that the Scottish football authorities have a penchant for acting outside the law, so waiving the right to challenge this in a real court could be disastrous.

This is a difficult issue for Charles Green and not one I envy him having to deal with. The issues would remain no matter who was in charge. Rangers deserve a clean slate if we go to Division 3 but we won’t get it. Instead we’ll get a continuation of the campaign to destroy the club, dressed up as sporting integrity.

When you look at it that way, is Division 3 still the best option? Maybe, but it’s not as clear cut as some would have you believe. We’ll be asked to pay all football debt. There is also the likelihood that we’ll either be banned from the Scottish Cup or will be forced to accept the illegal SFA transfer embargo through being threatened with the alternative of suspension or expulsion. Then the SPL will come in and make a concerted effort to strip titles and cups over, at worst, a technicality. Does that sound like “no sanctions” to anyone?

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