Rangers takeover: triple penalty punishment enough, says Johnston

KILMARNOCK chairman Michael Johnston believes a vote on changes to SPL rules dealing with clubs in administration is likely to be postponed for a third time next week as the ongoing crisis at Rangers unfolds.

Johnston has also suggested that, if the Ibrox club fail to reach a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with creditors next month, there is a strong case for allowing a “Newco” Rangers to retain its place in the SPL without any further sanctions being imposed. The 12 SPL clubs have already called off a vote on proposed new financial fair play regulations twice and are due to meet again next Wednesday to re- assess the situation. The CVA meeting proposed by the Charles Green-led consortium, who have signed a contract with Rangers administrators Duff and Phelps to purchase the club for £8.5 million, is not scheduled to take place until 6 June.

“I think the vote will probably be deferred again,” said Johnston. “I don’t think there will be any substantive decisions made on 30 May, principally because the CVA creditors meeting won’t take place until 6 June. So in advance of knowing how that is going to work out, I think it’s likely the SPL resolutions will be further adjourned. We will reconvene at a later date once there is more clarity on the CVA proposal and whether that has been accepted.

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“The Newco situation has never arisen before and it isn’t yet on the agenda. So there are a lot of issues yet to be resolved. If the CVA plan for Rangers doesn’t succeed and they have to go down the Newco route, then looking at it from a legal standpoint as a solicitor with some experience of these situations in the past, I’d say it’s not going to make any great difference to the creditors. The Green consortium is going to pay the same amount of money whether it’s a CVA exit or a Newco exit, whereby they buy the assets from the administrators. I believe a contract has been entered into whereby the same amount will be paid either way. So the creditors will be in no different position.”

Whatever form Rangers emerge in post-administration, Johnston feels there is a strong case to suggest they have already been subjected to sufficient punishment. “The club is traditionally recognised by the football authorities as something separate and distinct from the people or corporate entity that owns it,” added Johnston. “So you better ask yourself at some point how much the club should be punished going forward for the errors of judgment of people in the past. The club suffered a 10-point penalty, the appropriate and only available penalty when it went into administration in terms of the SPL rules.

“It has been refused a Uefa licence by the SFA, so although it finished second in the league it won’t take up its place in the Champions League qualifiers. They have also had a transfer or player registration embargo imposed by the SFA for a year. So they are three very significant penalties, two of which are going to have an impact on them for at least another year. Anyone who takes over the club, who has done nothing wrong but simply has good intentions towards the club and its supporters, is going to have to deal with those consequences. Whether there should be more penalties imposed, which will have a further adverse effect on the club and new owners who are blameless, is a difficult issue to balance against the desire to inflict further punishment on the club due to the sins of previous owners.

“It’s difficult for the football authorities to exercise jurisdiction over previous decision-makers at Rangers when they no longer have an involvement with the club. The SFA have already imposed a substantial fine on Mr Whyte for errors of judgement on his part and that’s as far as they can go.

“This argument in relation to a Newco, of sporting integrity and commercial necessity, and whether there should be more penalties or sanctions, has a whole load of factors which need to be discussed in detail and thrashed out if that Newco route becomes a reality.

“At the moment, it isn’t, so there’s no decision for the other SPL member clubs to make. We just have to deal with the situation as we find it and no doubt there will be a few more twists and turns before we get to 4 August and the SPL kicks off again.”