RANGERS chief executive Charles Green has insisted he and his investors remain committed to delivering long-term stability and success at Ibrox, despite learning that for the first time in their history, the club will next season be playing football outside the top flight in Scotland.
• St Johnstone, Aberdeen and Inverness released statements on Monday announcing their opposition to a ‘newco’ Rangers playing in the SPL next season
• Hearts, Dundee United and Hibernian previously signalled their intent to vote against the proposal when SPL clubs meet on July 4
Any lingering prospect of newco Rangers being admitted to the SPL next season was comprehensively crushed after three more clubs formally declared their intention on Monday to reject the application next month, taking the number of those already in the ‘no’ camp to six.
The 4 July meeting of SPL clubs at Hampden is now a formality with Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle all releasing statements confirming they will vote ‘No’ to the share transfer application submitted last week by newco chief Green.
The trio joined Hearts, Dundee United and Hibernian who had already gone public with their decisions, shattering Green’s hopes of achieving the minimum 8-4 vote in favour which he requires for top-flight football to be played at Ibrox.
Green discovered that his application to join the SPL was doomed to failure while having talks with PFA Scotland officials over the contentious issue of whether players are free to leave.
The prospect of more players following the example of Rhys McCabe, Sone Aluko, Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker in rejecting the transfer of their contracts to his new company increased when the confirmation that another trio of clubs would oppose Green’s bid.
“I’m obviously disappointed, but we have to deal with the cards we have been dealt,” he said on Monday night. “It’s unfortunate people have come out and made these comments when my understanding was that there was going to be a vote next Wednesday, but I can’t control other clubs. The consortium realised that if we went down the newco route it was a risk. It doesn’t alter their resolve. Those guys invested knowing these were obstacles that were outside their control and the resolve is there to see this job finished.
“I said at Murray Park on the 13 May that my job will be finished when we have got financial security, when the debts are paid, when it’s floated on the stock market and the fans have got the right and the opportunity to buy shares. And nothing has changed since 13 May.”
Green added: “We really need now to get behind the club because we can see both from what’s been said by the SPL and what’s been happening with the players that really, really you need to unify and unite behind Rangers. Let’s now start moving this club forward, stop the fighting, stop the disagreements, get behind the club.”
Talks have taken place over a reconstruction package that would see the new Rangers start life in the Irn-Bru First Division, but Falkirk have already made their opposition known and the fan power that swayed SPL chairmen could conceivably see Green forced to apply for entry to the Third Division.
“That’s something we have got to work on over the next few days,” he said. “First thing we have got to get membership of the SFA and then start speaking to the football league.”
Green remains at odds with the union over players’ rights to join another club, but he adopted a less aggressive stance after threatening legal action over the weekend.
“I met the PFA group really for the first time today, although my guys have been speaking to them over the last few days,” Green said. “It was a very constructive meeting and we look forward to seeing the players on Thursday when they report back for training.”
The PFA revealed the topic of employment law was discussed only briefly in the “constructive” talks with Green. Chief executive Fraser Wishart said: “We both acknowledged that whilst we disagree upon the fundamental issues surrounding our members’ rights to object to the transfer to the newco, we can respect the other party’s position and allow the process to flow without acrimony. The players who have objected so far have had to make a decision which has been a footballing one.”
The newco Rangers must also gain SFA membership to continue playing football at any level. Talks are ongoing involving the SFA, SPL and SFL over a merged league organisation which could see the Ibrox club drop just one tier, rather than apply for entry to the Third Division.
Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne warned against a quickly cobbled together form of league reconstruction simply for the sake of preserving the commercial presence of Rangers.
He said: “It is our intention to oppose readmission to the SPL for any Rangers newco. If readmission were to be refused, we believe the appropriate action would be for Rangers newco to apply for membership to the SFA and to submit an application for admission to the SFL.
“One of our major objectives has to be to work with everyone concerned to ensure that the commercial challenges that this case has and will continue to cause can be mitigated as far as they possibly can so that sporting integrity can be the overriding factor. Reorganisation of the game is a priority but should not be rushed through just to deal specifically with one club.”
St Johnstone confirmed they will pay a financial penalty but insisted they were left with no moral alternative. “The economic climate has made it extremely difficult for anyone involved in football and any reduction in income will have a serious impact on this football club,” said their statement. “But the board believes that sporting integrity should not be sacrificed in favour of economic expediency.
“There has been a mounting groundswell of opinion amongst our fans which has clearly shown that the vast majority of our supporters would not favour an application by newco Rangers to the SPL. This has simply reaffirmed the board’s position.
“It is important that a clear and unambiguous message goes out from the custodians of Scottish football that this sort of scenario should never be allowed to happen again. St Johnstone Football Club will not support an application by newco Rangers to join the SPL.”
The sentiments were echoed by Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A statement from the Highland club read: “The club will be voting ‘No’ to an application for SPL entry from a new company which has acquired the assets of Rangers following the liquidation of the previous company.”
Kenny Cameron, the Inverness chairman, claimed he and his fellow directors would have had to resign if they did not decide to vote ‘No’ next month.
“We would be in a completely untenable position, financially and morally, if we defied the overwhelming demand of our paying customers who are, after all, what Caley Thistle are all about,” said Cameron. “Our sympathies go to the many small businesses in and around Glasgow who have or will suffer through no fault of their own and the Rangers supporters who are not to blame for their club’s difficulties.
“We have listened to all our customers. It is fair to say that in excess of 95 per cent of them raised the issue of sporting integrity as the reason why they don’t want the newco to be admitted and had not yet renewed their season tickets. We have also been contacted by supporters of other SPL clubs, saying they would not be back to Inverness if we did not accept that sporting integrity was what mattered, but this is something we had already considered and it is not only the integrity of the SPL that is at stake but the integrity of Scottish football.”
Five SPL clubs have yet to reveal how they intend to vote – Celtic, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Ross County and St Mirren.