BILL Miller has been given more breathing space in which to complete his takeover of Rangers after the Scottish Premier League again postponed a vote on proposed financial fair-play regulation.
The American businessman, who was named preferred bidder for the Ibrox club last week, now has until 30 May to operate under the existing regulations – and could have a chance to address SPL chairmen directly before they vote on more stringent sanctions for clubs which suffer insolvency events. The SPL meeting at Hampden earlier today had been agreed by member clubs a week ago after they decided they did not have enough information on which to proceed to a vote on financial fair play. But the fact that a second postponement was on the cards became immdiately clear when Duff & Phelps, Rangers’ administrators, submitted a written request for an adjourment.
That adjournment was agreed – although the meeting itself still lasted five hours – and the general meeting will reconvene at 10am on the second last day of the month. The separate issue of voting reform was also adjourned until the same date.
One potentially significant piece of business did take place at the meeting, however, as the 11 clubs present – the current members minus Rangers – agreed that they, not the SPL’s six-person board, should have the power to deal with any ‘newco’ application. That proposed change to the current regulations requires 21 days’ notice, and it too will be dealt with on 30 May.
Miller plans to take Rangers out of administration via a hybrid route, in which a new company will take over the club’s assets while the debts will be dealt with in a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). The two separate parts would later be merged, and in the interim it would be the newco which carried on the Rangers name as a football club.
For that to happen and Rangers to continue in the SPL, the transfer of the club’s share in the top dlvision from the current company to the newco has to be agreed. If a transfer application is made before 30 May it will still be dealt with by the SPL board, although the board has said it will consult the clubs before coming to a decision. If an application is made any later it will be dealt with by the clubs, presuming they agree to take the power to do so at their 30 May meeting.
“The 11 member clubs present in person at today’s general meeting unanimously called for the power to deal with any newco application to be moved from the board to the clubs,” a statement from the SPL said last night. “This requires 21 clear days’ notice. The clubs will therefore meet again on 30 May to consider a resolution designed to achieve this.
“In the event that an application for transfer of share to a newco is received before 30 May, then it can be dealt with by the SPL board. The board have indicated that they would, in those circumstances, call together the clubs before any such decision was made. For the avoidance of doubt, no decision on any transfer of a share to a newco has yet been made; nor has any such application been received.”
Duff & Phelps also issued a statement to explain their position. “As administrators we have a duty to act in the interests of the club, hence the reason for us tabling a proxy vote in case any decisions were reached today,” it said. “As far as voting on longer-term constitutional issues, we felt this is something that is more a matter for a new owner.”
Dunfermline Athletic chairman John Yorkston said he understood the frustration which would be felt at the second postponement of the meeting, but added that he felt the correct decision had been made. “It has been adjourned again,” he said. “It took a long time to not decide anything. We need to know more information. We were hoping it would get resolved at this meeting, but we don’t have enough information.”
The proposed new rules would see greater penalties for clubs in administration and sanctions on clubs who undergo an insolvency transfer, which would see them docked ten points for two seasons and 75 per cent of their SPL income for three years.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster denied the issue had turned into a shambles. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think that is very unfair.
“We know that passions are running high, we know this is a very sensitive time for Scottish football and we know that a lot of things are at stake. So it is very important that people take time to make the right decisions and are balanced in their approach. We had a request just before the meeting started from the administrators of Rangers to adjourn the meeting. The administrators I think felt it was appropriate that any new owner of Rangers should be involved in discussions around the sorts of issues that were considered today and the clubs agreed with that.”
Last week it was reported that Miller had been given some “comfort” in his talks with the football authorities in Scotland but Doncaster denied any deal had been done. He said: “At the moment he [Miller] is clearly carrying out due diligence on the club he is intending to buy, it is the next stage that we and the clubs get involved.
“There is no decision to make at the moment.”