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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 8 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 16, 2007

Rangers riled by 'ridiculous' Romanov rant

Rangers manager Walter Smith has hit out at 'ridiculous' comments made by Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov about alleged corruption in the Scottish game.

Romanov was reported to have accused the Old Firm of buying off referees and players.

The Lithuanian-based businessman has since denied making the claim about referees, but he made a further attack on former players who he claims have betrayed him.

Smith would be amazed if Romanov had made such allegations about match officials.

He said: 'I think it's a ridiculous comment to make, to be quite honest.

'I was 20 years at Dundee United and I felt at times the referees always favoured the Old Firm.

'When it came to working for one of the Old Firm you feel the referees are against you us as well.

'It's a ridiculous statement. I think he's claiming he did not make it.

'As far as I'm concerned that's one thing we have never had a problem with in Scotland, both with referees or players.

'We can always disagree with referees, but I don't think any of the people I have worked with or any of my counterparts at other clubs would ever accuse Scottish referees of anything other than making an honest error. Albeit loads of them!'

Smith remained cautious over whether the reported remarks, transcribed from an interview with Russian magazine Futbol, were true to Romanov's original comments.

The Rangers boss said: 'The normal claim I've seen with most players is that they have been misquoted in their own newspapers when they go abroad.'

But he added: 'I don't think people who are in a position of power at a club should be allowed to make statements saying that other clubs bribe refs or players.

'I don't know what kind of punishment they could have against him. I just think it's ridiculous that he comes out with these comments.

'I think he lets his own club down as much as anything else by making statements like that.'

Romanov was reported to have called the Old Firm 'underhand' and accused them of trying to 'buy off' players.

However his spokesman later said: 'Vladimir has issued a categorical denial that he said anything about referees being bought off by the Old Firm.'

In a colourful statement which included digs at the media and former Hearts players such as Andy Webster, Romanov then added: 'I don't expect anything except lies and distortion of my quotes.'

Celtic chairman Brian Quinn and Ibrox chief executive Martin Bain have both confirmed they may consider legal action against the Russian-born banker.

The Scottish Football Association will write to Romanov to check whether he has been accurately quoted.