Commission hearing into Rangers EBT case begins

THE commission set up by the Scottish Premier League to investigate the alleged use of dual contracts by the company that formerly ran Rangers sat for the first time yesterday.

• First meeting of panel takes place at Hampden.

Rangers could be stripped of titles between 2000 and 2011.

The meeting ran from 10am until around 5pm at Hampden, despite the Ibrox club refusing to send a representative. The three-man panel is chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith as the SPL step up the investigation into transactions from the Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) scheme run by former Rangers owner Sir David Murray. As expected, the meeting finished ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Macedonia at the national stadium, with the commission set to make use of tomorrow’s scheduled second day of talks.

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Rangers could be stripped of league titles if found guilty of making undeclared payments to players between 2000 and 2011. What is an already contentious issue took a dramatic twist on Monday when Rangers chief executive Charles Green revealed the Govan club would snub the SPL hearing.

Green’s company bought the business and assets of the soon-to-be-liquidated Rangers – now called RFC 2012 – for £5.5million in June. He said: “Neither the SPL, nor its commission, has any legal power or authority over the club because it is not in the SPL.”

Green added intrigue to the issue when he claimed in a BBC Radio Scotland Good Morning Scotland interview that “more than two” SPL clubs have used EBTs but would “rather not say” who they were before adding: “I have put my hand up and they should do the same.”

Green also suggested that Rangers may not seek re-entry to the top flight if they are successful in climbing through the divisions to get there. He said: “Unless the SPL welcome us with open arms, why would we go back there? Ten clubs voted Rangers out of that league, what makes you think they would want Rangers back in? It begs the question, will the league still be there in three years’ time?”

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Former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston echoed the statement made by Green yesterday when he released a statement through the Rangers Supporters Trust last night.

He said: “I just can’t sit by on the side-lines and watch a miscarriage of justice be activated by a kangaroo court.

“It is not my personal objective to denigrate the football institutions of Scotland, but their actions and words go a long way to influencing public opinion as to the interpretation of the events that have taken place and how members of the public frame their own opinions as a result. The whole process has been established to satisfy a self-serving agenda by vested interests in the SPL.

“The SFA, however, is the supreme governing body of Scottish football and should invoke its ultimate authority to forestall the inevitable inequity that will ensue if the capital punishment decision is left to the SPL.

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“The SFA is complicit in all of this because they have not at least up until now had the courage to publicly acknowledge that they either ignored or did not really understand the well-publicised structure surrounding the relationship that Rangers FC had with certain of its players.”

Johnston said the SFA asked for information on EBT payments from Rangers in April 2011. He added: “The club responded accordingly and provided details, as it had done in previous years, by declaring player salaries, bonuses, benefits, etc., but also payments made to a Remuneration Trust.

“The SFA compliance officers must have known, both from the description and context of the reports, that such expenditures had some connection to player compensation.

“However, without any further investigation at the time, Rangers FC received its SFA license to compete in the 2011/2012 season.

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“Rangers, therefore, were entitled to believe that they were not in breach of any SFA regulation requiring reporting of player compensation.

“If there was any question that the essence of these payments to a Remuneration Trust could have endangered the proud historical record of our team, then why was it not raised long before then. At best, the SFA is relying on inconsistent interpretation of its own rules, and to do this retrospectively is totally at odds with underlying principles of equity in the law.”

Meanwhile, Rangers manager Ally McCoist has handed new deals to a trio of young players in a bid to secure their long-term futures at Ibrox. Barrie McKay, Lewis Macleod and Robbie Crawford have all signed contract extensions.

17-year-old McKay, who scored Rangers’ first-ever goal in the Third Division, had been linked with a move to Everton ahead of last month’s transfer deadline but has committed himself to Ibrox instead.