THE trickle of Rangers players turning their back on the reconstituted Ibrox club turned into a flood last night as Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ness all joined the exodus after declining to transfer their contracts to Charles Green’s newco Rangers.
• Lee Wallace has pledged future to Ibrox club despite ongoing uncertainty
• Rhys McCabe, Sone Aluko, Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith joined by Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Jamie Ness and Kyle Lafferty in leaving the club
• Lee McCulloch the only other player besides Wallace to pledge future to Rangers
They joined Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker, Sone Aluko and Rhys McCabe, who registered their objections before the start of this week.
A statement from lawyer Margaret Gribbon of Bridge Litigation issued shortly after 9pm read: “Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Jamie Ness and Kyle Lafferty have instructed PFA lawyers’ Bridge Litigation UK to object to their transfer to the Rangers’ newco.”
Lee Wallace had earlier pledged his future to the newco club, which is almost certain to start life outside the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
But Wallace and Lee McCulloch are the only two players to have committed themselves publicly to staying at Ibrox and Green now faces the prospect of more players walking away, possibly without compensation.
The law firm’s statement added: “The union’s lawyers are already instructed in this matter for Rhys McCabe and Sone Aluko.
“Bridge Litigation UK has confirmed that letters of objection have been sent to the club along with requests to the SFA to release the players’ registrations.
“Bridge Litigation UK have shared with the players the contents of legal guidance issued by the SFA last week on the issue of TUPE and player registration and which they state supports their legal view that an objection under TUPE amounts to a lawful termination of contract giving the club no entitlement to a claim for compensation.”
Ms Gribbon added: “This has been an extremely difficult period for all the players and in the end their decisions were influenced largely by footballing considerations.
“SPL football appears highly unlikely and even First Division football cannot be guaranteed in light of comments made today by two First Division clubs.
“The players’ commitment and loyalty to oldco Rangers cannot be questioned; they voluntarily took significant wage cuts in a genuine act of solidarity which ensured that none of the playing squad or club staff would lose their jobs.
“But for their contribution, it’s likely that the club would not have survived until the end of the season.
“As professional footballers, the players’ careers are relatively short lived and they are entitled to exercise basic employment rights the law affords to all employees in this country under the TUPE Regulations. I now expect the SFA and Fifa to interpret their rules and regulations in accordance with the TUPE legislation so that the players’ registrations can be released without delay.”
Green continues to dispute the interpretation of the TUPE regulations regarding transfer of contracts, which PFA Scotland have informed players means they are free to leave if they choose. Green held talks with PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart on Monday and it is understood that dialogue continued yesterday. But the union are firm in their conviction their members are not obliged to move their contracts across to a newco.
Aluko, whose initial short-term contract contained an option for both parties to extend it, was the first to inform Rangers last week he would not sign for the newco. The Nigerian winger is now a target for MLS club Houston Dynamo. McCabe, the teenage midfielder who made his first-team breakthrough at the end of last season, followed. Then on Sunday, Scottish internationals Naismith and Whittaker both announced they would be invoking their rights to move on in the event of liquidation of their employers.
Rumours had been rife in Glasgow all day yesterday that McGregor, Lafferty and Davis were ready to walk away, and along with Ness, they confirmed their intentions last night.
Scotland goalkeeper McGregor and captain Davis were arguably the most vaulable assets in the squad before Rangers entered administration under Craig Whyte and, as two of the most talented players in the squad, to lose them will be crushing blow for manager Ally McCoist. There was a little respite for Rangers supporters yesterday, however, when Scotland full-back Wallace declared he would be seeing out the remainder of his contract regardless of the newco status of the club. “When I arrived at Ibrox, the support from the club, players and fans was fantastic,” said the former Hearts player. “The fans showed great faith in us all during tough times and I still feel I have more to show them during the remainder of my contract. My partner is expecting our first baby soon and my priority is to my family. This gives me the incentive to improve my performance and ultimately win trophies.
“My personal decision in no way condemns or judges those made by my fellow professionals as I believe each person has different circumstances and reasons. I respect the decision taken by each individual player.”
The first-team squad are due to report back to Murray Park tomorrow for fitness tests before pre-season training begins in earnest on Monday.
Rangers were hit by another blow last night when it was revealed they have been dumped from Southampton’s Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup On 14 July.
Belgian champions Anderlecht will replace them, a decision the Saints’ website said was due to “the well-publicised circumstances surrounding the Scottish side”.
The website statement went on: “The decision has not been made lightly and has been reached with the integrity of the competition in mind, ensuring that the annual event will remain an extremely competitive experience with both Arsenal and Anderlecht bringing along a first team squad.”