Glasgow & West Scotland

Rangers launch legal action against SFA over transfer ban

The front of Rangers' Ibrox Stadium
Image caption Rangers were placed into administration in February

Rangers have asked the Court of Session to overturn a year-long transfer ban imposed on the club by the Scottish Football Association.

Lawyers for the club said the ban would cause them "utterly irretrievable" prejudice if it was upheld.

They claim the embargo is unlawful and outside the powers of the SFA tribunal.

In another move, the Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA) has said it is investigating Rangers' administrators.

The transfer ban was imposed on Rangers along with a £160,000 fine after it was charged with bringing the game into disrepute.

Richard Keen QC, acting for Rangers FC plc, said an agreement which saw senior players accept substantial pay cuts is due to expire next month.

In return for agreeing to the pay cuts, the players will be able to seek a transfer from Rangers for only about 25% of their perceived market value.

Mr Keen said the players would have "every incentive to go" because they would likely be able to secure a "golden hello" from buying clubs signing them for a knock-down transfer fee.

"If this sanction is in place they cannot be replaced by players over 18 years of age," he told the court, adding: "If the additional sanction was to remain in place for all or the material part of the transfer window the prejudice on the petitioners would be utterly irretrievable."

Mr Keen said an appeal tribunal held to review the original SFA decision had heard the suggestion that Rangers had a squad of more than 40 players. However, he said 25 of those players were aged 18 or under.

"If the additional sanction was to be suspended they would be able to sign replacement players for those who are in all probability leaving," he added.

Mr Keen pointed out that administrators Duff and Phelps were also seeking to finalise arrangements for the takeover of the club with Charles Green, a former Sheffield United chief executive.

Administrators were called in at Rangers in February following an unpaid tax bill and the club was charged by the SFA for bringing the game into disrepute.

Mr Keen argued that it was not competent for the tribunal to impose the additional sanction on the club and that it was outside its powers.

He said that a fine, suspension, expulsion and termination of membership were available, but added: "The sanction of suspending the registration of players is not available under the general disciplinary rules to the tribunal in respect of an alleged breach."

'Suspension or expulsion'

Aidan O'Neill QC, for the SFA, said the tribunal had sought to find a punishment or sanction which would fit the breach.

"They did not want to be in a situation of giving a sanction which is not effective and not dissuasive, or a disproportionate sanction - which is suspension or expulsion," he said.

He said it was understood within the sport that a transfer ban preventing the registration of new players was a sanction.

"We don't want a clunky reading of these rules which means either we have a useless sanction or a nuclear option. That is just nonsensical," he said.

Mr O'Neill argued that the tribunal had properly applied its mind to come up with what it considered to be an effective and proportionate outcome.

"This club brought the game into disrepute because it did not pay its taxes, among other things," he said.

The hearing is due to continue next week.

Takeover role

As the case was being heard, it emerged that the club's administrators are to face a new inquiry into their position.

Following a BBC documentary which suggested a conflict of interest concerning Duff and Phelps' role as Rangers administrators, a professional body has started an investigation.

The IPA acted after claims about the part key figures in Duff and Phelps played in the takeover of Rangers by Craig Whyte.

It has the power to revoke an individual's licence to practice. Duff and Phelps have said they are confident about the the outcome of the IPA inquiry.

Paul Clark, joint administrator, said: "We positively welcome any investigation by the Insolvency Practitioners Association.

"This will enable the true facts to emerge and demonstrate clearly that we have acted at all times with the best interests of creditors, the court and the club at heart."

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