SPL will draw a line under Rangers EBT payments

Stephen Thompson: No appeal against �250,000 fine. Picture: SNS
Stephen Thompson: No appeal against �250,000 fine. Picture: SNS
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DUNDEE United chairman Stephen Thompson has revealed the Scottish Premier League will not appeal against Lord Nimmo Smith’s ruling on Rangers’ failure to disclose side-letter payments to players through their Employee Benefit Trust scheme.

The Independent Commission set up by the SPL to assess the case against Rangers found the Ibrox club guilty, imposing a fine of £250,000, but also decided they gained no unfair sporting advantage. It removed the threat of Rangers being stripped of the five SPL titles they won in the period under investigation.

Celtic have publicly expressed their surprise at the report’s findings which the SPL are entitled to contest in an appeal which would be heard by the Scottish Football Association. But after an SPL meeting at Hampden yesterday, which Thompson attended alongside Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, it became clear Lord Nimmo Smith’s verdict will not be challenged.

“The decision has been made and as far as I’m concerned, that’s it now,” said SPL director Thompson. “It’s done and we move on. I was on the board of the SPL when we decided to go with the Independent Commission and I’m now back on the board. It was an Independent Commission and that was the route we decided was right, 
independent from the board.

“I’d like to draw a line under it and move on for the sake of Scottish football. There is no doubt the last year or so has damaged the image of the game and it’s time to move on, for the sake of the game from the top down.”

The SPL’s controversial 12-12-18 league reconstruction plan was top of the agenda at yesterday’s meeting and Thompson insists it can still be put in place for the start of next season. He does not believe the desire of many Scottish Football League clubs for a 12-12-10-10 set-up instead will hinder the timescale.

“It can be done and there is certainly a willingness from everyone to get there,” claimed Thompson. “We’re working very hard to get it over the line, but a lot of discussions still need to take place. I’ve heard in the last couple of days they want 10-10 rather than an 18, but I don’t think that’s going to be a stumbling block at all. Most people would like to try and get it 
over the line for next season.

“It’s the first time since I’ve been involved that we’ve had all 12 clubs agreed. Okay, a few of them are not 100 per cent behind it yet and have queries, but generally all 12 have agreed to take it to the next stage which is what we are doing now. It has been knocked and everyone gets caught up in the numbers game, but there are a lot of positive things about it – going to one league body, redistribution of funds and the pyramid system. There’s no perfect solution but it’s a step forward.

“If it doesn’t go through, it will be many years before something else is on the table again. I suppose if you want to look at it purely from your own club’s point of view, then most clubs would probably vote against it but we’re all trying to take off our club hats and look for the greater good of the game.

“It certainly spreads the wealth down through the leagues, there is a lot coming from the top six clubs and it certainly supports the league below. I don’t think the middle eight will be very exciting for an owner or chairman, but it will be from a fans’ point of view.”