LONDON - Rangers were dramatically kicked out of next season’s Scottish Premier League after rival clubs voted overwhelmingly to exclude the ailing Glasgow giants, it was confirmed Wednesday.
The soon-to-be-liquidated Ibrox club had applied to rejoin the league after reforming as a new company (newco) but their request was turned down following a vote of the other clubs which make up the Scottish top-flight.
“At today’s General Meeting, SPL clubs today voted overwhelmingly to reject the application from Rangers newco to join the SPL,” an SPL statement said.
The statement came after more than five hours of talks at Hampden as Rangers’ new management clung on to the hope of staving off exclusion.
It caps a humiliating fall from grace for the most successful club in Scottish football history, who were plunged into crisis earlier this year after entering administration following a tax dispute.
It was not immediately clear where Rangers’ new incarnation will begin life next season. One option under consideration is to start in the First Division, the league below the SPL.
Rangers chief executive Charles Green reacted to Wednesday’s snub by confirming that Rangers would apply to join the Scottish Football League (SFL).
“We are deeply disappointed that our application to rejoin the SPL has been rejected overwhelmingly by the member clubs,” Green said in a statement.
“We will now proceed as we had planned from late June to apply for membership of the SFL.
“It is entirely a matter for them whether our application will be accepted or rejected and we will make no representation to any member club prior to that application being considered.
“If our application were to be accepted, Rangers will play in whichever division the SFL sees fit and we will move forward from there.”
The SPL, SFL and Scottish Football Association (SFA) are all mulling the First Division option, which would also include significant league reform and £1 million ($1.6m) payment for the second tier’s television rights.
Safeguarding the multi-million pound commercial deals on which all of Scotland’s professional clubs rely so heavily is central to the issue, with a new TV deal worth £80 million ($125m) over five seasons reputedly dependent on the screening of four Rangers v Celtic Old Firm derbies a season.
Broadcasters are said to be prepared to go no more than one year without these showcase matches, meaning Rangers may end up in the First Division.
But clubs in the lower leagues are already speaking out against the prospect of Rangers going straight into the First Division, despite being told by the SFL that their own existence would be at risk if Rangers are forced to start in the Third Division.
The view of many lower league clubs is that Rangers should be forced to start from the bottom of the league ladder, as has happened in the past when clubs have been punished for financial mismanagement.
In 2008, Gretna were relegated from the SPL to the Third Divison – and then went bust – after being unable to guarantee that they would fulfil their fixtures, while a year later Livingston were relegated from the First Division to the Third Division after breaching league rules on insolvency.
Weary Rangers fans meanwhile have expressed a preference for starting from scratch in the Third Division.
A poll of season-ticket holders conducted by the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund voted 75 percent in favour of dropping down to the bottom tier.
“It shows the depth of feeling among our fans who have shown that they don’t want any favours from the rest of the clubs - or any preferential treatment,” a spokesman for the fans group said.
“What these Rangers fans are saying is: ‘If that is what is to happen to us, then let it happen and let us move on. We will support Rangers - no matter where they are playing’.”