CELTIC last night declared their “surprise” at the official conclusion that Rangers gained no competitive advantage from years of making undisclosed payments to players.
Oldco Rangers were fined for breaching rules from 2000 to 2011 but a three-man panel led by Lord Nimmo Smith ruled the affected players were not ineligible and so ruled out stripping the Ibrox club of five Scottish Premier League titles won during the period. Celtic made an official statement after saying they had been “inundated” with requests to make their position clear.
The statement read: “We note yesterday’s decision that Rangers FC has been found guilty of contravening the SPL rules on disclosure of payments over 11 years between 2000-2011. The scale of this amounts to a deliberate non-disclosure of £47 million in payments to players and staff. We also note the penalty of £250,000 which has been imposed. Like many within Scottish football, including supporters and other observers, we are surprised by the parallel conclusion that no competitive advantage was gained from these arrangements.
“However, the implications of this verdict are for the Scottish football authorities to address since the rules breached were specifically intended to defend ‘sporting integrity’.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon earlier refused to divulge his full views on the independent commission’s conclusions. And, apart from declaring they had been taken aback by the verdict on sporting advantage, the rest of Celtic’s statement focused on their own status rather than that of their city rivals.
The statement continued: “Throughout this matter, Celtic has refrained from comment on the affairs of Rangers FC while the various tribunals and commissions went about their work. We will continue to concentrate on our own affairs, and assure our supporters that at all times we will operate within both the rules of our governing bodies and the law of the land. Our club is in a great place at the moment and we are enjoying a fantastic season, maintaining our position at the top of Scottish football and enjoying huge success and profile across European football.
“We ask our fans to unite with us once again as we look ahead to the rest of the season, to the Scottish Cup on Saturday, to the Uefa Champions League next week and to an exciting future with a young squad of high quality players and a talented manager in Neil Lennon. Our fans have been magnificent this season, home and away, and as we head towards the end of the season, now, more than ever, we need our fans to be with us and to back the team and the club. We sincerely thank our fans for their continued support.”