DUNFERMLINE Athletic have been plunged into a relegation battle after they were docked 15 points for going into interim administration.
The Scottish Football League enforced the immediate points deduction following a board meeting at Hampden on Tuesday. The penalty sent the First Division side from fifth place into ninth, below Cowdenbeath in the relegation play-off spot, and only eight points clear of bottom-of-the-table Airdrie United.
The Fife club’s interim administrator, Bryan Jackson, accepted the decision but admitted it would make his rescue mission even more difficult. In a statement, Jackson said: “I received a fair hearing from the SFL board and knew that there would be some sanctions imposed by the SFL because of the administration. The decision to deduct 15 points from the club is disappointing but expected.
“This will undoubtedly make what is already a difficult job even harder. However, at least this decision means we know where we stand and what has to be done on and off the park.”
Jackson added: “The next few months will be difficult but, I believe, with the support of Pars United, the fans and wider community of Dunfermline that there is some hope for a positive outcome. Whilst I was encouraged by the support and all the donations at last Saturday’s match I cannot stress enough that we need the fans to continue turning up until the end of the season if the club is to survive through the summer.”
Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies described the punishment as “extremely harsh”. “There is no set rule, but we thought it would be around ten points, I think there was a feeling that would be fair,” said Jefferies. Fifteen points is extremely harsh and makes things a lot harder.
“We are being quite severely punished for something which was not the players’ fault, but we might just have to take it on the chin and get on with it.”
The SFL also imposed a transfer embargo which prohibits the club signing players aged over 21 until they come out of administration. Dunfermline will also be subject to a further ten-point penalty and be required to pay a £150,000 guarantee if they do not secure a Company Voluntary Arrangement by the start of next season.
A statement from the league read: “We are fully aware of the impact this situation has had on all concerned, especially players, staff and fans of the club. The SFL has a duty to protect the integrity and on-going smooth running of the league and therefore following a thorough process, the SFL board has decided that Dunfermline Athletic is guilty of conduct contrary to league rules, the interests of the league and its member clubs.”
Dunfermline have the right of appeal but their punishment is more lenient than recent penalties issued for the same offence. Dundee were deducted 25 points after going into administration for the second time in October 2010, while Gretna and Livingston were previously demoted two divisions during the summer break.
There will be no relegation from the First Division if reconstruction plans are voted in, but the SPL looks unlikely to secure the 11-1 majority needed to send the plans to the SFL clubs for approval.
Seven first-team players were made redundant after Dunfermline went into interim administration two weeks ago in a bid to avert a winding-up order over a £134,000 tax bill.