THE SFA last night accepted the Court of Session’s ruling that the transfer embargo imposed on Rangers was unlawful and have referred the case back to their independent Appellate Tribunal to decide on an alternative punishment for the crisis-torn Ibrox club.
Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the SFA, released a statement in which he condemned Rangers for taking the matter outwith football’s own disciplinary systems in direct contravention of Fifa and Uefa regulations.
But Regan also acknowledged that the SFA are obliged to defer to the greater authority of Scots Law.
After discussions with their own lawyers, the SFA have decided not to take up the right of appeal against the judgment passed by Lord Glennie in the Court of Session on Tuesday.
Instead, the SFA’s Appellate Tribunal will be reconvened as soon as practical, probably within the next two weeks. Among the most severe sanctions open to them are suspending or expelling Rangers from Scottish football. A ban from the Scottish Cup is another potential punishment. “In light of Tuesday’s decision by Lord Glennie at the Court of Session, it is necessary to clarify the position of the Scottish FA in relation to the disciplinary sanctions imposed on Rangers FC,” said Regan. “Football must always operate within the law of the land. Nonetheless, it is regrettable that a member club has sought recourse for a football disciplinary matter through increasingly costly civil court action.
“The right of appeal is now open to the Scottish FA through the Court of Session. However, by so doing, the very principles on which the Scottish FA – and, for that matter, Uefa and Fifa – are founded, namely football disciplinary matters being dealt with within its own jurisdiction, would be fundamentally compromised.
“Therefore, it is our intention to accede to Lord Glennie’s request and refer the matter back to the Appellate Tribunal, which will consider the remaining sanctions open to it. Details of a new hearing date will be confirmed in early course.
“The Scottish FA is bound – as are all other decision-making bodies in this country – by the Supervisory Jurisdiction of the court under Scots Law. The Scottish FA’s Senior Counsel represented to the Court of Session that it had no jurisdiction with reference to Article 5.1(b) and (c) of the Scottish FA’s Articles and Articles 4(2), 62(1), 63(1), 63(2) and 64(2) of the Fifa Statutes. This representation was rejected by Lord Glennie, who considered that the provisions of the Fifa statutes and the provisions of the Scottish FA Articles did not oust the supervisory jurisdiction of the courts to deal with questions of the powers open to the tribunal.
“It is important to reiterate that the additional sanction of a registration embargo was imposed by an independent Judicial Panel chaired by a leading QC, Gary Allan, and upheld by an Appellate Tribunal chaired by a Supreme Court Judge, Lord Carloway.
“That in itself vindicates the robustness of the Judicial Panel Protocol, which has been questioned in hackneyed comment in certain quarters this week. It should be noted that two vastly experienced Supreme Court Judges, Lord Carloway and Lord Glennie, arrived at diametrically opposed viewpoints on the same issue.”
The 12-month player signing ban was initially imposed on Rangers by a Judicial Panel on 23 April. They were found guilty of six SFA disciplinary rule breaches since Craig Whyte’s takeover of the club and were also fined £160,000.
Rangers appealed against the sanctions, with manager Ally McCoist claiming the transfer embargo could “kill” the club. But on 16 May, the Appellate Tribunal announced they were upholding the original decision which they stated was “proportionate to the breach and dissuasive of others”.
The Ibrox club, who have been in administration since 14 February and are therefore already subject to a transfer ban, chose to challenge the ruling at the Court of Session, rather than take it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland which is recognised by Fifa and Uefa.
The move has attracted widespread criticism from other Scottish clubs, with St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour and Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman Kenny Cameron both castigating Rangers for taking the matter outside football’s own jurisdiction.
Regan last night said the SFA’s member clubs will be strongly advised not to follow Rangers’ action in future when they convene at Hampden next week.
“With our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 6, it will be appropriate to remind member clubs that by very dint of their membership of the Scottish FA, they accept and abide by the Articles of Association,” added Regan.
Rangers, meanwhile, have now provided the SPL’s lawyers Harper McLeod with the information requested of them in relation to the ongoing inquiry into alleged dual contracts of players under the controversial Employee Benefit Trust scheme administered by the Murray Group from 2001 to 2010.
The club could be stripped of historic titles if they are found guilty of improper registration of players but not declaring all their football earnings.