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Feb 28, 2013

Rangers retain titles following probe

Rangers will not be stripped of any of their league titles following an investigation into alleged undisclosed payments to players, but the 'oldco' club has been fined £250,000 for financial irregularities.

• Gow: Scottish football should be ashamed

The Scottish Premier League set up an inquiry in response to the Employee Benefit Trusts instigated by former Rangers chairman Sir David Murray and in use between 2000 and 2011.

SPL rules specify that all payments to players relating to football activity must be stated in contracts registered with the league.

Rangers, who had to re-launch as a newco in Scotland's Third Division this season, had called for the probe - ordered on March 5 last year, before the liquidation of the original club - to be halted, warning Gers fans may boycott away games if the most severe punishments were implemented.

However, the independent three-man commission, which began hearing evidence on January 29, will not deprive the club of any of the five SPL titles won during that period as it found the club "did not gain any unfair competitive advantage", instead hitting the original company with a £250,000 fine.

The commission's statement found that the financial arrangements were not disclosed.

It read: "Although the payments in this case were not themselves irregular and were not in breach of SPL or SFA Rules, the scale and extent of the proven contraventions of the disclosure rules require a substantial penalty to be imposed.

"Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage from the contraventions of the SPL rules in failing to make proper disclosure of the side-letter arrangements, nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play, and for this and other reasons no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed upon Rangers FC.

"In all the circumstances the commission has imposed a fine of £250,000 on oldco."

Responding to the ruling, Rangers chief executive Charles Green said: "It is abundantly clear from the ruling there was no attempt by Rangers Football Club secure any unfair advantage or to cheat, as so many people asserted without giving any regard to the actual evidence.

"It is a matter of fact that people within the SPL wanted me, at first, to surrender titles as part of a deal to enable Rangers to play again as a member of the SFA. I rejected and resisted that suggestion and today's decision vindicates the position of the board and the supporters.

"In particular, I would like to thank the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund for their dedication and commitment on this matter."

Green hopes Rangers can now move forwards.

He said: "I think I speak for all Rangers fans in saying now, 'Enough is enough'. I have said before and will say again it is time everyone moved on. There are considerable challenges ahead for this club and Scottish football as a whole. That is where all efforts and energy should now be focused.

"We, as a club, will work with all parties who have the good of the game at heart. We are looking forward and I urge all Rangers fans to do likewise. We are rebuilding this club and are making great strides. The dark days are over and it is time now for all to embrace our ambition for a brighter future."

The SPL later issued a statement stressing the independence of the commission and vowing to reflect further on its findings.

The statement read: "The SPL board appointed the independent commission to consider all aspects of the above matter and at no point provided any direction to the commission on any aspect of the case.

"The SPL board notes that the commission has upheld a number of complaints against Rangers oldco and that Rangers oldco has been found to have breached SPL and Scottish FA rules over an 11-year period in relation to the non-disclosure of financial arrangements involving many of its players.

"The SPL board are assured by the integrity of the process followed and thank The Rt Hon Lord Nimmo Smith and his colleagues, Nicholas Stewart QC and Charles Flint QC, for their time and effort. The board wishes to give the detail of the decision further consideration at its next meeting.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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