Sunday 24 September 2017

Rangers go legal in bid to overturn transfer ban

Gavin McCafferty

Rangers yesterday stepped up their battle against the Scottish FA by launching a legal challenge to their transfer embargo.

The club began court action in a bid to overturn the 12-month ban, imposed for a failure to pay £13m in tax last season.

Rangers last week lost an appeal against their punishment, and the next traditional step in football disputes was to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

But Gers administrators began civil action against the SFA, a move prohibited in FIFA's regulations.

The case will continue on Tuesday and the club is possibly set for another eventful day 24 hours earlier, with a spokesman for the administrators saying they hope to issue a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposal on Monday.

In a statement, joint-administrator Paul Clark said: "The process will continue on Tuesday and it is the club's position the judicial panel did not have the powers to impose such a sanction."

The club's argument centres on the fact that the punishment, specifically a ban on registering players aged over 17, is not explicitly laid out in the SFA rules and so they claim it was not available to the panel.

However, the SFA articles of association include a clause that a judicial panel can implement any sanctions they deem appropriate.

The SFA, who were represented in court yesterday, issued a brief statement regarding the hearing.

"We note Rangers FC's initiation of proceedings at the Court of Session in relation to the sanctions imposed by an independent judicial panel, which were subsequently upheld by an appellate tribunal chaired by Lord Carloway," it read.

"With the hearing continued until Tuesday, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Article 64 of FIFA's statutes prohibits "recourse to ordinary courts of law", and national associations are told to impose sanctions on any party that fails to respect this obligation.

The SFA's article 99 states that members may not take disputes to a court of law unless with prior approval of their board.

The ban on registering players aged over 17 was handed down for a disrepute charge, while Rangers were also fined £160,000 for a total of five offences in relation to their financial affairs and the appointment as chairman of Craig Whyte.

Whyte was deemed unfit for a role in football by an SFA-commissioned independent inquiry over his previous disqualification as a director and subsequently banned from Scottish football for life.

Charles Green, the former Sheffield United chief executive at the head of the consortium that agreed to purchase the club, previously backed the administrators in their attempts to challenge the ban.

The club's challenge is being paid for by the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund.

Rangers fear the embargo will leave them without an experienced team next season as several of leading players negotiated exit clauses when they agreed to temporary wage cuts.

Green signed a contract to buy the club on May 12, but plans to send a CVA proposal to creditors on Monday did not materialise and administrators revised their target to some time this week. That has not been achieved but they said it should be out on Monday.

Creditors would then have two weeks before voting on any offer and, if a CVA is approved, there is a 28-day cooling-off period before the club would be able to come out of administration.

Irish Independent

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