A number of Rangers players negotiated exit clauses after accepting temporary wage cuts in March, which leaves the club exposed when the transfer window opens on 1 June – also the date when their wages are due to revert to normal levels.
Manager McCoist could lose even more players if the club’s creditors do not agree to a Company Voluntary Arrangement as PFA Scotland have argued that they would not be obliged to transfer to any new company that is formed from the current club’s shell.
Rangers last week lost their appeal against a 12-month transfer embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association over their failure to pay £13million in tax last season, meaning McCoist would only be able to bring in under-18s to replace any departing players.
With Rangers banned from Europe next season because of their financial mismanagement, Hateley thinks the loyalty of internationals such as Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker, Steven Davis and Steven Naismith will be sorely tested.
Hateley said: “I’m of the belief that as top pros you are always trying to make yourself the best you can be before your short career is over. Top players are always looking to become better and McGregor, Davis, Naismith and Whittaker are all top players.
“The question will be asked by their advisors – is staying at Rangers going to make you a better player?
“Possibly the circumstances from 6 June will determine those decisions, but if circumstances deny them that chance, then the players have a question to ask themselves.”
Administrators and prospective owner Charles Green had initially planned to send a CVA proposal yesterday, with a target date for a creditors meeting of 6 June.
That did not happen, with a spokesman for Duff & Phelps saying one would be sent some time this week, with two weeks’ notice needed.
It remains a possibility that a newco Rangers would be admitted to the Scottish Premier League without sanctions, but such an entity would be expected to inherit the transfer ban.
Hateley believes that could make it more difficult to reduce the wage bill, though.
“I find it very difficult to understand,” the former England striker said. “You are trying to get your football club back in order and the powers that be want the football club reeled back in.
“To do that you have to sell your top earners, bring the salary bill down and make it more manageable.
“But to do that you can’t sell all your top players without being able to bring another player in. So what do you do? If not you have to try to keep all your top players and keep all the top salaries.
“I would say Alistair would like to keep everybody but the players are in a powerful position now because of what they negotiated with the administrators.
“The most important thing for me now is the decision from the SFA and SPL and the sanctions. That then gives Alistair a clear plan in which way the club is going and also with the players as well.”