28 Feb 2013

Nimmo-Smith report: could titles be stripped from Rangers?

As usual the only clear and unequivocal winners will be the lawyers. Beyond that little can be said with certainty.

For sure, Lord Nimmo-Smith’s independent commission¬† into Rangers FC’s payments to players is at least a one-stop-shop in that the Lord examines and passes whatever sanctions he and his two assistants deem necessary – or exonerate the club altogether.

Basically they are judging whether Rangers cheated their way to successive Scottish Championships by failing to notify the Premier League of the full payments players were receiving.

So the trio of lawyers decide guilt or innocence and pass sanctions if – and only if – appropriate.

Much dramatic chatter and hot air has been expended about whether Scottish titles will be stripped from Ibrox and certainly the power exists for that should the club be found guilty.

But so too does a whole range of other sanctions ranging through fines to a proverbial slap over the wrist with a limp lettuce leaf.

There has been little by way of signals, leaks or steers until today. Though curiously the new Rangers owner Charles Green was told long in advance that the 28th would be D-Day.

For a man who has chosen to sit on the sidelines and do little more than insult the Independent Commission and claim he was boycotting it, he was well-briefed on this matter at least.

Upon the announcement (due at noon though Rangers may go public before then) the club can appeal to the Scottish Football Association if it feels hard done by.

But here things get truly murky. Because the period in question is essentially the first decade of this century, that is, the old, liquidated Rangers. It does not legally concern Charles Green’s new Rangers company.

Or does it? Can financial or other sanctions be imposed that materially affect the new company currently trying to play its way back to big-time football from the fourth tier of the game?

Ask two sports lawyers and you will get three opinions back on this, minimum.

Personally I hope for a swift end and we can all move on to football from the era of the suits – legal and material. Rangers need that. Football needs it.

But don’t bet the farm against a fudge, a long appeal process after today and no real end in sight on the cheating charges which still hang over Ibrox.

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