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By ESPN Staff

Demoted Livi consider appeal ahead of kick-off

Livingston are deciding whether to appeal their relegation to the Third Division, a punishment that has been branded "the death knell'' for the club.

The future of the debt-ridden West Lothian outfit is back in doubt after the Scottish Football League found Livi to be in breach of their insolvency rules and stripped them of their First Division status.

The news is the latest twist during what has been a traumatic few weeks for the club, who appeared to have been hauled back from the brink of extinction less than a week ago.

That was after the SFL gave the thumbs-up to a rescue package led by former Cowdenbeath owner Gordon McDougall and ex-Dumbarton chairman Neil Rankine.

However, the league warned Livi could still face a range of sanctions for commencing insolvency proceedings and they elected to follow the precedent set when Gretna went into administration a year ago.

The news was a huge blow to the club's hopes of survival, with the consortium looking to buy them having banked on First Division football.

Interim manager Donald McGruther, of administrators Mazars, said: "In my view, this represents the death knell of Livingston Football Club.

"Unless I'm extremely lucky and the consortium are prepared to take a view that they can survive in the Third Division playing out of Almondvale, I do not think it makes economic sense.''

Livingston's relegation led to Airdrie United and Cowdenbeath being promoted from the Second and Third Divisions, respectively.

However, Livi do have the right of appeal and can do so in the next 10 days.

With the league due to kick off this weekend, that would almost certainly lead to the postponement of their, Airdrie's and Cowdenbeath's opening-day fixtures.

Relegation to the Third Division was the final nail in the coffin for Gretna a year ago, with administrators pulling the club out of the league altogether.

The SFL believe Livingston are better equipped to avoid a similar fate.

McGruther was put in charge of Livi by the Court of Session in Edinburgh almost two weeks ago after West Lothian Council took legal action to reclaim a £330,000 debt.

Until then, the club had been under the control of controversial Italian businessman Angelo Massone, who was last week finally convinced to sell his shares to a consortium involving Rankine, McDougall and ex-Livi director Ged Nixon, of supporters' group 'Livi for Life'.

Prior to yesterday's meeting at Hampden, the group had expressed frustration at being asked by the SFL to put up a bond of £720,000 to underwrite the fulfilment of the club's league fixtures.

Relegation means a bond is no longer required but it still throws the consortium's plans into disarray.

McDougall was at Hampden yesterday representing the consortium and cut a dejected figure as he left the national stadium to consult his partners.

SFL chief executive David Longmuir defended the punishment, saying: "You have to bear in mind what we were trying to do here: trying to help a club to survive and at the same time protect the integrity of the rule that was breached as well.

"That's really fundamental to the ongoing good of the game.''

It is thought the other nine First Division clubs were extremely concerned about Livingston's ability to complete their fixtures.

Their total debts are not known but they amount to more than £1million.

As well as their debt to the council, who own Almondvale Stadium, the Inland Revenue are owed around £300,000.

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