GLASGOW - Rangers manager Ally McCoist has warned that a year-long ban on signing players imposed by the Scottish Football Association could "kill" the administration-hit club.
Rangers went into administration two months ago, prompting a raft of drastic measures including players agreeing to wage cuts of up to 75 per cent to avoid redundancies.
Amid efforts to attract a new owner, the SFA on Monday hit Rangers with a £160,000 ($260,000, 195,000 euro) fine and a 12-month embargo on registering players aged over 17 after finding the club guilty of five charges in relation to their finances and the appointment of Craig Whyte as chairman.
Administrators are appealing against the SFA decision but McCoist fears the worst if the verdict stands.
"Like everyone else involved - our team, our supporters, our staff and a lot of neutrals - I am staggered at the severity of the punishment," McCoist told www.RangersTV.tv.
"This decision could kill our football club, simple as that. Make no mistake about it."
He added: "You would hope there would be sympathetic ears within the SFA over an appeals process but you just don't know what is coming next. It is complete and utter guesswork."
US businessman Bill Miller and the Blue Knights group led by former Rangers director Paul Murray are still vying to buy the club after Singapore's Bill Ng scrapped his £20 million offer last week in frustration at the bidding process.
Even before the SFA's shock imposition of a transfer ban, Miller in particular made it clear his bid was dependent upon receiving written assurances that a "new" Rangers would not face fresh football sanctions next season.
However the recent sanction does not bode well for the club.
Many of Rangers' players could leave at the end of the season after having clauses inserted into contracts during the wage-cut negotiations.
Former Scotland international McCoist accused the SFA of not doing enough to help Rangers during the crisis.
"There was nobody prouder than me to represent my country. I was really fortunate to represent my country on a good number of occasions," said McCoist.
"But I just feel the governing body is just not doing nearly enough to help the club in the current situation. I am not looking for sympathy, I am looking for fairness. We are really, really struggling and we are not getting enough help."
He added: "We can't cope with it. We have lost players already this season.
"Individual players have clauses in their contracts which indicate they may leave for more suitable terms for themselves.
"There are already managers sniffing about our players - I know of that. They are like vultures around our squad at the moment which angers and disappoints me."
McCoist indicated that a recent discussion with Miller left him wondering whether buying the club would remain an option for the US businessman.
"We had a good chat about it and I have to say it must have a bearing on his views about the potential purchase of the club," he said.
"It must do or he wouldn't be phoning me at midnight on a Monday night. I don't have any doubt Brian Kennedy and Paul Murray would have an opinion on it also."
According to a report by administrators Duff and Phelps released earlier this month, Rangers' total debt could amount to £134 million, with the 140-year-old club awaiting the outcome of a tax tribunal case that could cost them £75 million.
Entering administration meant Rangers were docked 10 points - a move that effectively conceded the Scottish Premier League (SPL) title they held at the start of the season to arch rivals Celtic, recently crowned champions.