A DEAL to prevent major redundancies among the first team squad at Rangers was left hanging in the balance last night after the agents of up to seven players failed to agree the terms of wage-cutting measures with the club’s administrators.
On a dramatic day at Murray Park, 12 hours of negotiations were concluded at around 10.20pm last night without resolution. Exactly three weeks after taking charge of Rangers, administrators Duff and Phelps felt they had reached a tea-time agreement with the players and PFA Scotland.
Earlier in the day two players – Gregg Wylde and Mervan Celik – volunteered to accept immediate termination of their contracts in order to limit job losses elsewhere among the club’s non-playing staff.
But as the evening wore on, several of the players’ agents arrived at the club’s Milngavie training ground to renegotiate the terms of their clients’ contracts in line with the mooted agreement and it became clear that stumbling blocks were emerging.
Co-administrator David Whitehouse finally emerged to deliver a brief statement to the waiting media at 10.30pm.
“Today has unfortunately been a very frustrating day,” said Whitehouse. “Earlier in the day we believed that we had agreed in principle a basis of cost-cutting measures with the players accepting substantial pay cuts. We are very grateful for their efforts to that point.
“Sadly this evening we have been unable to reach agreement on the personal conditions sought by the advisers to the players in respect of those wage cuts.
“There is still some hope these issues can be solved first thing in the morning but it is extremely disappointing that we haven’t been able to get there tonight. Other than that, I’m not going to say any more this evening.”
When asked to name which players had failed to agree the deal, Whitehouse replied: “Not at this stage.”
The last three players to leave Murray Park last night were Rangers captain Steven Davis and Scottish international duo Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker. Both Whittaker and Naismith are represented by Peter McLean who was also one of the last to depart. It is understood that the concerns raised involved players seeking assurances that their acceptance of the wage cuts would help preserve the employment of the rest of the club’s staff both at Murray Park and Ibrox.
There were also issues over what the position of the players would be in relation to their salaries and possible transfer value in the summer.
When talks opened yesterday morning, the administrators rejected the wage deferral-based proposal which had been put to them by the players on Monday and which they had agreed to consider overnight. Negotiations switched to a programme of staggered salary reductions aimed at minimising the number of redundancies among the playing staff. That involved the club’s highest earners having to accept a 75 per cent cut, the middle-earning group losing 50 per cent and the lowest-paid players 25 per cent.
Even with that deal, there would need to be up to four more players made redundant in addition to Wylde and Celik.
Scotland under-21 internationalist Wylde arrived at Rangers’ Murray Park training ground in mid-afternoon after it emerged that he had offered to leave.
The 20-year-old, who has made 47 appearances for the club, was immediately linked with a move to Southampton. Wylde said: “I wanted to help out the club by keeping people in a job.
“I was so tired I couldn’t really sleep at night. It was getting to me so I thought I would leave.” Celik only arrived at the club in January under freedom of contract from Swedish side GAIS, although they were due a transfer fee. The midfielder has struggled to make an impression. Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster clarified the situation regarding any players who leave Rangers immediately.
“There are some countries where the transfer window remains open so that is a potential opportunity for them,” he said.
“For them to go to a country like England, where the transfer window is closed, they would need to get special dispensation from Fifa.
“Typically where a club has been in administration and players have been made redundant, that hasn’t been a problem and is something Fifa has tended to do.”