LIVINGSTON’S very existence could come under threat after the Scottish FA yesterday found the club guilty of breaking dual ownership regulations.
An SFA disciplinary tribunal, who began hearing evidence back in October, have ruled that Livingston’s principal shareholder Neil Rankine also holds an interest in League 2 club East Fife.
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And the governing body has given him until 10 April to dispose of his stake in either Livingston or the Methil club. Should he refuse to do so, the SFA, who have found the Lions guilty of breaching rules 1, 7, 21 and 86, could suspend Livingston’s licence.
The severity of the punishment will be determined on whether Rankine relinquishes either shareholding.
The disciplinary panel will reconvene on 13 February when it is expected that Livingston will give the SFA an update of Rankine’s intentions.
Rankine owns a 50 per cent shareholding in the West Lothian outfit’s parent company Livingston 5 Limited, which, in turn, controls 96 per cent of the club. And, through majority East Fife shareholder Lorraine Johnston Twigg, the SFA has decided that he also holds an interest at the Fife club.
After finding Livingston guilty, the Scottish Professional Football League is also duty-bound to carry out its own investigation into the matter.
It is thought privately the SPFL are concerned over the punishment that will be meted by their Hampden counterparts.
Suspending Livingston’s licence would mean that they would be prevented from playing games of any kind. The club would also be allowed to appeal against any punishment.
Rankine declined to comment on the matter yesterday but he maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
The SFA recently dropped a charge relating to Dumbarton that was part of the initial Notice of Complaint that was issued last August.
Rankine has admitted he is still due around £200,000 after selling Dumbarton in 2008 for £1.6 million. Yesterday’s verdict is the latest in a list of problems that have beset the club. Livingston were hit with a five-point penalty and £10,000 fine by the SPFL in November after defaulting on payments to HMRC. Rankine has also previously warned that the Lions could be forced into a third administration if former chief executive Ged Nixon is successful in suing the club for around £300,000. That case is due to be heard in Edinburgh early next month.
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