‘SFA Rangers verdict could hurt Scottish football’

Mike Ashley is alleged to have violated rules on dual ownership. Picture: Getty
Mike Ashley is alleged to have violated rules on dual ownership. Picture: Getty
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HAULING Rangers up in front of the authorities may be necessary but it could also prove detrimental to the whole of the Scottish game.

In a tale which threatens to get much worse before it gets better, former Rangers captain and BBC pundit Craig Paterson says the implications of the latest bout of negativity could impact on the entire Scottish game, indicating that, once again, the Scottish FA have been caught between a rock and a hard place and he warns that the rest of the country’s top clubs need to prepare for the fall-out.

News that the Scottish FA has been in touch with Mike Ashley and Rangers seeking clarification regarding finances and controlling interests, prompted more than a few wry smiles. Clarity, after all, is a commodity in short supply at Ibrox for some time and trying to glean satisfactory answers to the plethora of questions which need addressed is an unenviable task, according to Paterson.

“Of course it is a no-win situation for the SFA but they laid down a marker when they put Rangers down and demonstrated that even one of the biggest clubs in the country would be held accountable and treated like everyone else,” he said. “They can’t turn around and bend the rules now and that could become a major problem.”

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In the latest twists to the ongoing saga, manager Ally McCoist triggered the 12-month notice period in his contract, signalling a financial stand-off. Then the SFA served notices of complaint alleging that the club and Sports Direct owner Ashley have violated the rules on dual ownership of clubs and suggesting they have failed “to act in the best interests” of football by reneging on an agreement with the ruling body and its member clubs.

Although he owns 8.29 per cent of Rangers, less than the permitted 10 per cent, it is believed that the £2 million loans he has extended to the club has given him an unacceptable level of control, allowing him to appoint board members and influence club matters. That has triggered the SFA’s call for next month’s disciplinary hearing.

Regardless of the punishment, if found guilty, any kind of penalty could have a massive impact. Financially, a major fine could lead to the need for more redundancies, with Paterson fearing the football staff will be targeted next. A points deduction is a no more attractive proposition, with both likely to hinder the club’s chances of a clean sweep of promotions and an unfettered climb back to the top flight.

“I think we all realise that the game is struggling just now and we can’t find major sponsors and the media money is a pittance compared to that down south, so we all know that the game would benefit financially from a strong Rangers in the top division,”said Paterson. “They are a cash generator and our game is more marketable when they are in that league and most people in the game will be praying that they can get things sorted and get back into the Premiership, but we also know that they have to earn that place and that’s the problem because I can see things getting a lot worse before they get better. But, if Rangers have to take another step back, that will be to the detriment of the Scottish game as a whole. That’s why this is a tricky one for the SFA because they, ultimately, are responsible for our football and they don’t want to come in for any more flak.”

But he believes that is as unavoidable as greater anguish for the Ibrox club’s fans. The resignation of a man he knows well is proof of that as far as Paterson is concerned. He added: “He has played the first card and that will set the next stage of this game in motion. No one knows what the end game will be but Ally and the club have got to come to some kind of agreement that allows Coisty to move on.

“It was a shock but knowing Ally, it will have been a decision he will have thought about long and hard. He gave up a massive career with the media and television because he wanted to come back but I think the only club he would have come back for was Rangers, so this will be hurting him and when he does leave it will be a real dagger in the heart.

“I don’t think he handed in his resignation because of some results, I think there is more to it than that and I think it shows how bad things are behind the scenes. People see the happy go-lucky side of Ally McCoist but those who have played with him or against him at anything , whether that’s football, badminton, golf, whatever, he is the ultimate competitor and he would use everything in his armoury to beat you, so he doesn’t give up easily. Walking away must have been a massive decision.

“Perhaps he does want to shine a light on what is happening there because we all know it’s not good. I honestly can’t remember the last time something 100 per cent positive came out of Rangers. For two and a half years we have been waiting for things to turn around and they haven’t. There’s no white knight and I honestly don’t know how they do turn things around but it’s a massive job and it could get even bigger after the SFA hearing.”

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